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Friday, October 29, 2004

Whitefish students present at Montana Historical Society Conference

“A place that we love”

The Montana History Conference was held in Whitefish this year.

A traveler making the drive to Whitefish up the west shore of Flathead Lake moves through a landscape that attracts new residents from all over the country. Is it just the landscape that brings people here? Or is it also some idea they have about what Montana is, and who they might be if they came here? Whatever brings them, they will influence Montana’s future, just as earlier migrants did. What do they see here? What do they imagine the good life might be?

As people who are here now manage to articulate their own answers to such questions, they can have an influence on what sort of people are attracted to this place.

As part of the conference, students from Beth Beaulieu’s English classes last year did a slide presentation on their research into the transformation of Whitefish from a railroad town referred to locally as “Stumptown” to a renowned ski resort. Ann Danczyk, Mary Kohnstamm, Jana Rozar gave the presentation and Jacob Fern provided technological support. Students did the presentaton twice at the new public library across the street from the Depot.

The presentation gave a brief history of Whitefish, including some “now and then” rephotography, as well as a story of their own participation in that history by completing a variety of research projects leading up to publishing a book and presenting a program to the community. The presentation began and ended with brief statements from the students about why the project mattered to them, and how they felt about living in Whitefish.

The librarian said she has been repeatedly asked for copies of their book of essays on Whitefish history by people who saw the students’ display, which was set up in the library as part of the conference.

The students (shown: Mary Kohnstamm and Jacob Fern) were interviewed by reporter Lindsey Nelson for the Whitefish Pilot.

Dottie Susag pointed out after the student presentations at MEA by students from Simms, Chester, Whitefish, and Bigfork that students are the most important advocates for the Heritage Project. Indeed they are. I believe public schools will be revitalized when students, teachers and parents make common cause for an education that makes good sense. Students are the most important part of this, because people who listen to young people speaking articulately about important academic work that they have done are usually convinced. Other forms of evidence--self-interested testimony and statistics--are often suspect.

They also gave an on-camera interview to Eric Taber for the Montana News Station (CBS Affiliate KAJ-TV). He asked good questions and they gave good answers. Excerpts were broadcast that evening.

Ann, Mary, and Jana: Heritage Reporters

Though the girls did the project last year, they have been willing to travel and speak about the project this year. They said they didn’t have a good idea of how important the project was or what a big deal it was until after they attended the Youth Heritage Project late last March.

It might be helpful to share the latest issue of Heritage Education with students to give them an idea of what the project is about. Teachers who want classroom sets of the magazine, please contact one of the Project offices (Helena or St. Ignatius).

Is there anything else we can do to introduce new students to the importance and the excitement of this work?

Posted by Michael L Umphrey on 10/29 at 11:42 PM
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2004 Montana Heritage Project
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