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Monday, February 28, 2005

Church and the State:  Catholic Education In Central Montana
Great Falls Central H. S.,

Sarah Zook, , Project Director
Great Falls Central H. S.,
P O Box 1399,
Great Falls, MT 59403-1399

Class or classes in which Project will be completed: Computer Literacy, 10th graders

Total number of students participating: 30

Research Questions

Timeline of Activities

Brief history of Great Falls Central Catholic High School:
Great Falls Central was originally located in the building which is now Paris Gibson Middle School. It provided Catholic education for students in grades 9-12 until it closed in 1973 as the new CMR High School opened. In 2000, supporters of Catholic education decided to reopen Great Falls Central. Since the Paris Gibson building was taken and there was no money to build a new school, they worked out a deal with the University of Great Falls to use two of the classrooms in their gymnasium building (the McLaughlin Center) on a temporary basis. As the number of students per graduating class increased from nine to the current Freshman class of 25, Central has had to find additional space—using the gymnasium’s stage and adding two modular home units out the back of the McLaughlin Center.

*These activities will generate the content students will use to create the projects necessary to meet the Montana State Standards for basic technology required for this course.

Questions (Ask): The first step in the Project will be to get students to think about the history of their school (and of Catholic religion in the area) as it dates back to the first jesuit priests’ arrival in Montana back in the early 19th century and not just the last five years. Central students share many of the same issues as other small school students such as a lack of understanding about the complexities of their past as well as no ownership of their present or future. The goal of the Project this year will be to help students to discover the story of their school’s past and to help them create their own sense of place, even in times when they don’t have that physical space to call their own.  The first activity will be for students to write how they think Catholic education came to Montana, and specifically, Central Montana.  This will help to establish what preconceived ideas they have for comparison later.  Then, students will share them with the class to look for inconsistencies, gaps, and areas they have questions about.  These will form the starting list for the questions about the school and church’s history and what would they like to know more about.  Finally, they will write a description of Catholic education as it is today.

Questions may include:  Who are the students at Central?  Then and now?  What are their backgrounds? Then and now?  Why do students come to Central?  Then and now?  What did they study?  Then and now?  Why did the school open?  Why did it grow?  Why was it closed?  Who were the major decision-makers at all stages?  What was the students’ schooling like before Central opened?  And after?

*Throughout the Project students will be journaling their thoughts, questions, reflections, ideas, changes in perceptions, and conclusions.

Read (Listen): Students will read From Age to Age. A History of the Catholic Church of Eastern Montana.  Portions of this book provide some of the factual history of the Diocese and Central Montana.

Research (Listen): With questions in mind, students will take their first field trip to research at the Ursuline Center in Great Falls.  The Ursuline Center was one of the first Catholic schools in the Great Falls area and houses many primary documents related to its history.  Part of the field trip will include a visit to the on-site museum.  Once they have exhausted the sources at the Ursuline Center, students will take a second field trip to the Cascade County Archives also located in Great Falls.  These archives house another unique collection of early images of the Great Falls area including early school houses.  They also have on file stories from those who experienced the early Catholic schools and early Great Falls residents.  The Great Billings-Dioceses also has a lot of historical material that the students will read to begin to answer some of their questions and establish a basic understanding before conducting interviews.

Explore/Reflect: With a new feel for the depth of their history, students will then take their yearly retreat to one of the original Catholic education sites--the Ursuline Center or St. Peter’s Cathedral.  This retreat will be facilitated in conjunction with the Great Falls Central Religion teacher with the intent to have students ask questions about how they fit in to the Catholic schools’ history and how they can impact its future.

Explore: Before conducting their small group oral interviews, students will have the opportunity to listen to and ask practice questions of a guest speaker on one of the topics of interest to them.  Once they have a better understanding of the history of the schools as well as better formulated questions, students will conduct oral interviews with, nuns of the Ursuline Center, Great Falls Central and Ursuline alumni or their descendants, priests, etc. who are familiar with the history of the schools and who may help them to answer the questions they have generated.  This work will be done in pairs or individually with an adult mentor.  These interviews will be recorded in digital video format and burned to DVD’s for gift to the interviewee and for the archives at GFCCHS. 

Student Writings (Tell): Students will now create writings in which they relate their new understandings of the history of Catholic education, Central, one of the missions, or other topic from their research.  These writings may take the forms of essays of place, research papers, creative writings, or historical essays.  Students will use their journals while writing to recall preconceived notions and remember notable discoveries made along the way.

They may respond to questions such as:  Where were the original places of worship and education—how have they changed?  How have they stayed the same? Or questions from their original list of guiding questions (from Ask above).

Web Site (Tell): The final gifts of charity will be a publication and a web site.  The publication will display the student works generated through the Project and present state of/future glimpses of Catholic education in the Great Falls area.  The web site will augment the current imformation available on-line which is not particularly in-depth and displays no images or student writing. The existing web site is  Depending on permissions granted to the school, we will either add to this site or create our own historical pages off the Great Falls Central site at  These pages will be written using Dreamweaver software which theoretically has the potential to allow on-line access to the GFCCHS Heritage database as well.

Presentation (Tell): Students will put together a Catholic History Evening where they will present the results of their research.  They will invite their interviewees and present them with gifts of writings and a DVD of their interview. 

Database (Tell): The students will also be responsible for adding their research to the cumulative Heritage Project Database created as a part of the 2004-05 Project. 

Funds requested

Heritage Project

Total requested: 3000

Resources pledged by School District

School District

Culminating Event or Product

The final products will include the historical web site, the searchable database, and the Catholic History evening.  During this evening, students will present readings and thank their interviewees by presenting them with DVD’s and the products of their writing.  The event will be held in the UGF Providence Forum and students will provide desserts and refreshments.

Assurances. The School Administration assures that the school will: (1) Support the educational goals listed on the Montana Heritage Project home page (; (2) Provide the Montana Heritage Project Director with data as needed for project evaluation; (3) Provide time as needed for teacher inservice, curriculum development, and instructional planning to implement the project as described in this application; (4) Allow teachers listed as team members in this application release time to attend a two-day Summit Conference in Helena in February and a 2-day Student Conference in April; (5) Support staff members in writing and speaking about the Montana Heritage Project in professional and community settings; (6) Support the development of connections to the community as described in this application; (7) Show district support of at least $1000 (or, if the grant request is for less than $1000, district support equal to the amount requested). Indirect costs can be used as part of the district support.



Local Project Director/Date

Posted by Sarah Zook
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