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Thursday, April 06, 2006

2006 Youth Heritage Festival
   Montana Heritage Project

The annual Youth Heritage Festival is Montana’s premiere academic conference for high school scholars. The high point of the event is the reading of research-based essays written by the students, along with multimedia presentations and displays of their work.

True Tests, keynote speech by Superintendent of Public Instruction Linda McCulloch (with additional photos of the event)

A Conversation about Community, welcoming remarks by Heritage Project Director Michael Umphrey

Students presented their research to the State of Montana to be archived at the Montana Historical Society.  Lauren Vogl, Broadwater High School (Townsend) senior, did an elegant job as Master of Ceremonies. Also present were, from left, Mark Baumler (Interim Director, Montana Historical Society), Guha Shankar (American Folklife Center, Library of Congress), Linda McCulloch (Montana Superintendent of Public Instruction), John Bohlinger (Montana Lieutenant Governor), Liz Claiborne, Art Ortenberg, and Jack Copps (Executive Director, Montana Quality Education Coalition).

A team of researchers from each school presented their work to an audience of about 120--including peers from around the state, teachers, community members, and representatives from cultural agencies. These students from Broadwater High School in Townsend, taught by English teacher Darlene Beck, were selected to serve as Project Ambassadors to the Library of Congress for 2006. They will travel to Washington, D.C. to present their work before Librarian of Congress James Billington on May 10. They were selected on the basis of the combined excellence of their research-based writing, live presentation, and visual display. Their research project examined the impact the forest fires of 2000 had on people in the area.

Bigfork High School students of teacher Mary Sullivan scored highest in writing, and Great Falls Central students taught by Sarah Zook scored highest for their live presentation. 

On Tuesday morning, eight students whose writing was recognized as “distinguished” by a panel of judges met for a special breakfast with Heritage Education magazine editor Katherine Mitchell to discuss the editorial process involved in publishing their work. Each will be paid $250 for publication rights to their work. Speakers at the breakfast included Martha Kohl, former editor of the Montana Historical Society Press, and Michael Umphrey, MHP director and author of two books of poetry.

The 2006 Distinguished Writers include:

Lindsey Appell “A Tribute to the ‘Doc’” (Roundup High School) Tom Thackeray, teacher

Kari Eisenzimer “Ruth Lundin Budd” (Simms High School) – Josh Clixby, Molly Pasma, Larry Singleton, teachers

Shannon Flynn “The Flynn family fights the fires of 2000” (Broadwater High School – Townsend) – Darlene Beck, teacher

Cassandra Galloway “Tell the story and shut up” (Bigfork High School) – Mary Sullivan, teacher

Jamie Halliday “Better than Nothin’” (Bigfork High School) Mary Sullivan, teacher

Kira Lee “What Can We Learn from the Vikings--in Libby, Montana” (Libby High School) – Jeff Gruber, teacher

Abbey Newell “Just a Priest?” (Roundup High School) Tom Thackeray, teacher

Hannah Pimley, Heather Pimley, Jenni Henke “How the growth of large cities has affected small town businesses” – collaborative project (Chester High School) Renee Rasmussen, teacher

Several members of the Flynn family attended the Youth Heritage Festival to hear Shannon Flynn read her first-place essay, “The Flynn Family Fights the Fires of 2000.” The essay used diaries, primary documents, and oral interviews to trace the intertwined experiences of five family members during the historic fire season. 

Students and teachers were enthralled by Hal Cannon, Director of the Western Folklife Center, Utah, filmmaker, musician, and regular contributor to National Public Radio. Hal showed recent videos created as a part of the Deep West Project. They featured stories and meditations in the form of video documentaries from the lives of rural families in the American West. The powerful material was enhanced by Hal’s engaging presence and by the venue--the historic barn at the Kleffner Ranch outside of Helena. It was a world-class evening.

Summary of 2006 Research Projects:

Broadwater High School:
Jeannette Ingold’s book on 1910 fires, The Big Burn, sparked the interest of Townsend’s Heritage Project students to study of the Broadwater County Fires of 2000. Students compared and contrasted fire impact, management strategies, public health and safety issues, forest restoration, and economic impacts as they evolved between 1910 and 2000. Local Forest Service personnel, law enforcement officials, and community members served as primary sources for student exploration. The students conducted additional primary source research at the Montana Historical Society, the Broadwater County Museum, and Forest Service offices. The students in Darlene Beck’s junior and senior English classes also interviewed Broadwater County veterans and family members and transcribed those oral history tapes and wrote related papers. The senior class hosted the 6th annual Veterans’ Recognition Program to honor local service men and women, continuing a Montana Heritage Project tradition.

At the beginning of this year, each of the 83 students in Mary Sullivan’s junior English classes at Bigfork High School interviewed a veteran from a twentieth century conflict or from Iraq. Students also examined the role of community women during wartime. On November 11, these students hosted their annual Veterans’ Assembly. It included a color guard, taps, and additional music. Students read the veterans’ own words as they had recorded them in oral histories and recognized Gold Star mothers with long stemmed roses. Later in the year, while studying the Depression in U.S. history and reading Karen Hesse’s Out of the Dust, students interviewed community members who remembered the 1930’s. These interviews were recorded on video and audio tape and transcribed. While listening to their elders grapple with the essential question, “What has changed, and what has stayed the same?” students learned about life in Montana during the Great Depression. To thank their mentors, students hosted a dessert party and read portions of the oral histories they had recorded. Students ended the evening by singing “Brother, Can you Spare A Dime.”

White Sulphur Springs:
Nancy Heggen’s junior class at White Sulphur Springs started their Montana Heritage Project work by hosting the school’s first Veteran’s Program. The class invited a Vietnam veteran to speak and honored that individual and four others during the afternoon community event. The class then began their broader research into community wedding traditions and the meaning of those traditions. The class cooked lunch for several couples from the Ringling and Martinsdale areas of Meagher County and conducted interviews with them.

At Corvallis High School, in Phil Leonardi’s geography classes, heritage education engaged students in documenting local history. Course activities and assignments helped Corvallis freshmens recognize, understand, and finally appreciate the ways in which their individual lives are shaped by our community. As they explored local history, culture, and folklore, students gained primary research skills and identified connections between their “place,” who they are, and ultimately who they may want to become. Students were also encouraged to draw upon their new understanding of their “place” and their heritage to explore similar themes in the lives of other community residents. Students presented through work to the community in a variety of written, oral, and multimedia formats..

The 1910s in the Upper Musselshell Valley were much like the 1910s elsewhere in the United States—full of technological and social change. Nancy Widdicombe’s senior English students at Harlowton High School chose to study that era in first half of their research this year. They concentrated on everyday life in Valley, investigating especially clothing, food, recreation, and education. Students examined historic newspapers, magazines, and archival documents to find evidence of everyday living patterns. The Upper Musselshell Historical Society staff invited students to create a 1910 documentary using the museum as its setting. During the second phase of project work, entitled “People of the Valley,” Harlowton seniors are interviewing cowboys and cowgirls, artists, area historians and local craftspeople. These interviews will be organized into a second documentary. The community will be able to enjoy both films at Harlowton’s Open House on Monday, May 15.

Great Falls Central:
At Great Falls Central High School, Sarah Zook’s 25 sophomore Computer Literacy students researched the history of Catholic education in Central Montana in order to better understanding their own educational heritage. Students conducted interviews with alumni, former teachers, local historians, and members of the religious community. They scoured primary documents and photographs in the area archives and compiled all the information into a web site. The web site is designed to be used by all researchers, including elementary students and teachers. The site tells the tales of many different schools, incorporating the fascinating stories that students encountered in their research. In December, students also presented the first portion of their research in a public community program. In May, students will present a play for the community, drawn from their year-long research efforts.

After reading Richard Waverly Poston’s Small Town Renaissance and researching the success that other towns had with Montana Study discussions, Roundup High School Heritage Project students and teachers decided to conduct a community study of their own. Students met with members of the community that they identified as leaders in six areas: government, business, agriculture, religion, education, and medicine. The forums lead to lively discussion about Roundup’s history, its current condition, and its future. As a final gift to the community, students hosted their own forum and gave a presentation summarizing their findings. Individual students from Tim Schaff’s and Tom Thackeray’s classes, with Dale Alger’s guidance, also pursued individual research projects. Among other topics, students examined the history of Central School and the Roundup Memorial Hospital and explored Roundup’s artistic and religious communities.

This year at Libby High School, Jeff Gruber’s Local Legacies class studied how logging has affected the landscape around the community of Libby. To start, the class read Jared Diamond’s book Collapse, which highlighted how advanced societies have declined or collapsed throughout history. Using Diamond’s five-point framework, students chose particular civilizations and compared their decline to America’s situation today. The Students guiding question was: what can we learn from the mistakes of the past so that America doesn’t meet the same fate? The class visited the site of a 1919 logging camp and examined the camp’s historical record. Students investigated how logging practices in 1919 affected the forest. They then observed modern logging practices and interviewed loggers and foresters to compare the effects of contemporary practices with those that occurred 85 years ago. The students wrote essays based on their findings and will host a heritage evening for the community in May.

The 2005-2006 Simms High School Heritage Project chose to research Fort Shaw’s military history, using the theme “Fort Shaw: Marching Through Time.” Students in classes taught by Josh Clixby, Jenny Roher, Molly Pasma, and Larry Singleton directed their study to three guiding questions: What can we learn from the lives of individuals who lived at the Fort and the issues that affected them; what are the popular beliefs or myths and underlying truths and contradictions related to the Fort; and what has changed and stayed the same at the Fort? In order to answer these questions, students explored the Baker Massacre site; invited local historians to come in and discuss Fort Shaw; and conducted primary source research in several archives—relying on assistance from mentors throughout. Student teams organized their research around three topical frames: the construction, creation and military regimen of the Fort; entertainment, medicine, and issues of race and culture at the Fort; and Sun River Valley families whose arrival dates to the Fort. On March 20, students presented their work to the community in their annual heritage fair.

Students in Renee Rasmussen’s junior English class in the newly consolidated Chester Joplin Inverness Public School became curators of Inverness Public School history this year. They undertook the mammoth task of cataloging Inverness school artifacts, including trophies, banners, and awards. They interviewed community members and former students. They invited Inverness alumni, teachers, parents, and community members to help retrieve—and save—three buried time capsules before the school grounds were sold. In a final community gathering, C-J-I students will present their research papers and video documentaries. They will even surprise a former Inverness High School student whose World War II service prevented him from graduating with true high school diploma.

Posted by David Hume on 04/06 at 04:18 PM
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© 2006 Montana Heritage Project
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