Poster: dawn is our classroom Dawn Poster
                                       ". . .What we have loved
Others will love, and we will show them how."

                                                          William Wordsworth

A Montana Style, Take Two

Another trait of Montanans that’s related to self-sufficiency is what Montana Jones calls away-from-it-all-ness. Do we keep up with the latest trends in music? Maybe not. Do we care?

Away-from-it-all-ness. Importing musicians with other styles and tastes is easy enough, but Montana style is about getting away from all the hubub and noise and fashion trends and pop crap. Besides, why should we go to the trouble of bringing some of that hippity-hop music here when the kids down the street have guitars and can do a pretty good job of banging out some old rock and roll songs, it’s just as much fun for dancing.

Not following trends. Do it yourself. Avoiding the madness of the world. All part of Montana style.

Full article:

Not being with “it” when “it” isn’t all that rewarding--part of the reason for living under the big sky, I think. For a longer and some what edgier take on the charm of not being cosmopolitan--what Anthony Harrigan calls the “therapy of distance"--see this article from the Contemporary Review:

I keep running into articles extolling the virtues of life in the nonurban spaces of the West, especially Montana. Harrigan suggested in his 1994 article that the dissatisfaction with urban conditions and the allure of the West might in time lead to some new form of Homestead Boom (Katherine argues that it’s been underway for a long time, since she left Racine, Wisconsin for Montana for precisely such reasons):

Ironically, the settlement of the American continent began—and long continued—with an impulse to escape the crowded conditions of the Old World, whether the poverty-stricken countryside of Ireland or Sicily or the ghettoes of Russia and Poland. Indeed for many generations of immigrants, there was truly a therapy of distance—from poverty, conscription, and religious persecution. The Russo-Germans who settled in North Dakota in the late 19th century truly fit the description of those who seek therapy in great distances. In this connection, I am reminded of the statement by John G. Ackerman in the New York Times Book Review that there is a ‘dialectic of possibility in his history which is potentially liberating’. Thus, in time, urban Americans may turn against the horrors of American urban life and decide to participate in an internal migration—a new movement West.

I would like to see an oral interview project focusing on why recent immigrants to Montana have come here.

Posted by Michael L Umphrey
on 12/14 at 08:41 PM
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© 2005 Montana Heritage Project

Montana Style--according to Montana Jones

Is there such a thing as a “Montana” style? Montana Jones thinks so, and it has something to do with self-sufficiency. This is exemplified by the number of people who hunt for meat, but it’s not limited to that:

I see self sufficiency everywhere I look around here. I see it in the business people I deal with. I see it in the recreation enthusiasts. I see it in the Missoula hippies and the city dwellers. Not everyone is bagging their own meat, but they are watching out for themselves in their own way.

Full article:

Self-sufficiency is a near-universal trait of rural people. What’s the alternative? Do our kids recognize and appreciate this trait in those around them?

Posted by Michael L Umphrey
on 12/14 at 08:35 PM
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© 2005 Montana Heritage Project

Teaching and a Sense of Place

Originally published by Cultural Arts Resources for Teachers and Students - CARTS

"What is a ‘Place’?" Is that strip of grass between the lanes on the interstate highway a place? Is an internet website a place? Is McDonalds a place? What about the Little Big Horn Battlefield? Chief Charlo’s grave? The camping spot on Lolo Creek that Lewis and Clark  called Travelers’ Rest? Your favorite summer swimming hole? Some "places" are really no place. That is, we pass them without seeing them. When we are there they have no meaning for us. We don’t remember them when we are gone.

Student from Libby High School in northwest Montana makes field notes at Kootenai Falls for an essay of place.

But other places are part of the landscapes in our minds. When we think of important events, times full of life, we see in our minds the places where they occurred, which are inseparable from what happened. When we are homesick, we remember them.

Other places are storied with public events of national significance: Gettysburg, Wounded Knee, Pearl Harbor. Visitors flock to them every year, hungry for reality.

Teachers who draw on the power of place in our lives quite literally "place" the abstract and conceptual understandings of traditional curricula in local realities. Many researchers have shown that young people have little real understanding of the decontextualized information that flows over them in conventional teaching, and without such understanding they are often unable to transfer their learning to the world beyond the classroom window.

Besides, place-based teaching is more fun and more engaging for students as well as for teachers, parents, and other community members.

I’ve followed students into the field to document the occupational culture of Montana ranching and logging families for community web sites.

I’ve gone with teams of students from a geography class to gather data from an abandoned cemetery they discovered in the woods, where the first fur trader in the area is buried with his Indian family, near a vanished fort.

I’ve watched a team of English students locate Lewis and Clark campsites after weeks of research using journals and GIS software, so they could document the present, comparing the flora and fauna with the 1804 journals.

I’ve helped art students complete a community calendar featuring drawings inspired by research into local stories.

I’ve attended plays put on by high school drama classes based on oral histories collected from local elders.

I’ve camped with a class of history students at an abandoned gold mining town where they were completing a field archeology project so they could write the history of a place that had been all but forgotten.

When we talk about teaching and a sense of place, we are simply talking about the best teaching--teaching for deep understanding, teaching that transfers to new settings. A simple hunger for reality motivates current thinking about a sense of place, a hunger for meanings that satisfy like the snap of an apple bitten into on a cool October morning, the juice wet and cold and sweet. Real sky. Real stars. Real history. Real stories. Real friendships.

More and more teachers now accompany students to neighborhoods, streams and rivers, forests, community meetings or markets, local celebrations, and historic sites to study, document, and understand the world. They enter the community as hunters and gatherers, ethnographers, scientists, historians, problem-solvers, artists and, most important of all, as fellow community members.

Our youth have been gone so long, off in those huge schools on the edge of town, that when they re-enter the community, they cause something of a commotion. They wake people up. Both young and old have suffered from the loss of perspective that results when they are separated from each other.

Place-based teaching is not only the key to school reform but also to community revitalization. A person or a town whose music comes pre-recorded, whose textbooks are written by distant committees, whose food materializes through unknown processes, whose conversation is drowned out by broadcast chatter, whose politics consists of filling out multiple-choice forms, and whose education is planned by bickering factions is living in a fantasy if it imagines itself free.

It would be good if every student could have at least one class each term that dealt directly and intensively with local knowledge or local issues. And if every class could include at least one unit that focused on the making the places students inhabit better, helping them make personal connections to stories larger than themselves, seeing the ways individuals are intertwined with communities and communities with states and with nations, all sorts of problems we now face would begin to dissolve.

We would sense hopeful answers to many pressing questions: How can we involve our youth in serving others? How can we smooth the transition from school to work by providing experiences in out-of-classroom settings? How can we give young people a sense of belonging? How can we make the curriculum relevant to contemporary concerns? How can we encourage greater parent and community involvement in the schools?

Educators who approach the curriculum through the lens of particular localities quite literally "place" information in contexts that help young people convert the curriculum from mere information into genuine knowledge.

A sense of place, after all, is a sense of orientation. It is both the beginning and the end of knowing.

Posted by Michael L Umphrey
on 12/13 at 01:01 PM
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© 2005 Montana Heritage Project

Writing as a Way of Inhabiting a Place

What better way to open people up to the possibilities of learning something new than to go walk somewhere, with a notebook and a mission.

In one of the most well-known and influential rhetoric texts in the canon, Phaedrus is on his way out of the city, going for a walk “outside the walls, ” when he meets Socrates and shares his belief that his walk in the country will be “more refreshing than a stroll in the city squares”. Socrates joins Phaedrus, where they soon come to the Ilissus; Phaedrus spots a tall plane tree, and they settle there to hear and discuss the speech that Phaedrus has with him. Socrates seems so enchanted with the place and waxes so poetically about it that Phaedrus comments, “So far from being like a native, you resemble …a visitor being shown the sights by a guide. This comes of your never going abroad beyond the frontiers of Attica or even, as far as I can see, outside the actual walls of the city”. Socrates replies that he stays in the city because his love of learning, especially about human nature, keeps him among people. As he puts it, “the fields and trees won’t teach me anything. ” In this opening scene, as the translator tells the reader, Socrates is in unfamiliar territory—and such an excursion “is quite contrary to his usual habits.”

Habitually, then, Socrates hangs out in the city, and through these opening lines Plato draws attention to the role of place in conversations, persuasion, and learning. . .

As Plato knew. . .memory and place, location and argument, walking and learning, are vitally and dramatically linked in our personal histories and personal geographies. Places evoke powerful human emotions because they become layered, like sediment or a palimpsest, with histories and stories and memories. When places are inhabited in the fullest sense, they become embodied with the kinds of stories, myths, and legends that the spot beside the Ilissus holds; they can stimulate and refresh— or disturb and unnerve—their visitors.


From the introduction to Geographies of Writing: Inhabiting Places and Encountering Difference by Nedra Reynolds (Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 2004)

Posted by Michael L Umphrey
on 12/12 at 03:27 PM
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© 2005 Montana Heritage Project

Placemaking in Lolo

Placemaking is often both literal and obvious. We invest our time and energy to remake the world more to our liking.

Posted by Michael L Umphrey
on 12/07 at 07:21 AM
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© 2005 Montana Heritage Project

Greg Smith: Rooting Children in Place

After working in a variety of different jobs, Greg Smith decided to become an English teacher in his mid-twenties. After completing an M.A. at Southern Oregon State College in Ashland, he taught high school for nine years, most of them at a small Friends boarding school in Nothern California. Convinced of the value of situating education in strong communities, he returned to graduate school at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where where he earned his Ph.D. and extended the understandings he had developed while teaching in a small high school.

Currently, Greg is a professor of education at Lewis & Clark College in Portland. His publications in leading education journals have called attention to place-based learning: ”Going Local” (Educational Leadership, September, 2002) and ”Place-Based Education: Learning to Be Where We Are” (Phi Delta Kappan, April, 2002).

“How can we encourage students to care about learning? Demonstrate to them that they live in communities that care for and value them, communities willing to acknowledge a long-term dependence on students’ talents and interests, communities willing to make their assets and issues an honored part of every school’s curriculum.”

Posted by Michael L Umphrey
on 12/03 at 05:17 AM
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© 2005 Montana Heritage Project

Guha Shankar--Fieldwork as Teaching

Guha Shankar develops community- and place-based education programs for the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. He works with partner programs in Arizona, Utah, and Montana and has conducted many workshops in ethnographic research methods and skills-based training in field documentation in institutions across the US.

Guha also coordinates the Center’s digital imaging program, aimed at enhancing the Library’s national and international educational and research mission.  He is also responsible for helping to develop and produce the Center’s produce public education programs including exhibitions, concerts, symposia, and seminars. Shankar has published articles on his research interests, including cultural politics and performance in the Caribbean and developments in the field of ethnographic film.  He has produced and edited films on material cultural traditions and community life in a variety of cultural contexts. Shankar earned his Ph.D. in 2003 from the University of Texas -Austin’s Department of Anthropology, with a concentration in Folklore and Public Culture. Prior to undertaking graduate studies at the University, Shankar was Media Production Specialist and documentary film producer at the Smithsonian Institution’s Center for Folklife Programs, Washington, DC (1985-1993).

In his presentation for our place-based teaching conference “Beyond the Text: Fieldwork as Education,” we’ve asked Guha to be a folklorist--to explain how folklorists understand place and how they study the communities and individuals that inhabit places.

Posted by Marcella Sherfy
on 12/02 at 11:10 AM
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© 2005 Montana Heritage Project

Rural Trust President Rachel Tompkins

Students Imagining What’s Possible for Their Communities

Rachel Tompkins is president of the Rural School and Community Trust (Rural Trust). The Rural Trust has long been a driving force in community-centered and place-based teaching throughout the nation. Working in some of the poorest, most challenging rural places, the Rural Trust involves young people in learning linked to their communities, improves the quality of teaching and school leadership, advocates for appropriate state educational policies and addresses the critical issue of funding for rural schools.

Previously, Rachel served as extension professor for Community, Economic, and Workforce Development in the West Virginia University (WVU) Extension Service in Morgantown, W. Va. Tompkins holds degrees from West Virginia University in biology, the Maxwell School of Syracuse University in public administration, and Harvard Graduate School of Education in administration, planning, and social policy. Rachel currently serves on the boards of “What Kids Can do,” the Management Assistance Group, and the High Rocks Educational Corporation. Previously she served on the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation Board of Trustees and the West Virginia Commission for National and Community Service. She was vice chair of the Annenberg Rural Challenge from 1995-1999, and continues as an ex-officio member of the board of the Rural School and Community Trust.

The Rural School and Community Trust works with 700 school-community partnerships around the nation. “The kids in these projects are showing adults that they can be part of the solution. They are a real force for imagining what’s possible in America’s small towns.” Rachel commented in a feature article for “What Kids Can Do.”

The Montana Heritage Project was featured in the August 2003 issue of Rural Roots, the Rural Trust’s monthly newsletter.

Posted by Marcella Sherfy
on 12/01 at 02:23 PM
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© 2005 Montana Heritage Project

Sharon Bishop - Award-Winning Nebraska Place-Based Writer

All Roads Lead Home

We’ve wanted to spotlight the great work being done by the Nebraska Writing Project in linking the teaching of writing to “place consciousness,” so we are delighted to have a talented practitioner from that program on board for our conference.

Sharon Bishop has taught high school English in small town, rural Nebraska for 25 years. Through those years, Ms. Bishop believed in the power of a place-based curriculum that combined literature, art, and science to help her students write well and become stewards of their communities and the resources that supported them. At her teaching post in Henderson, part of the Heartland Community Schools system, Sharon developed her own literature and composition class and drew on the voices and stories of prairie families and communities to serve as texts.

At the same time, Sharon sought resources from national organizations that had begun to understand the teaching philosophy she already used. She became a consultant and co-director for the Nebraska Writing Project. She joined the “Rural Voices, Country Schools” project sponsored by the National Writing Project and the Annenberg Rural Challenge. She served as a pilot teacher for the “Keeping and Creating American Communities” initiative funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities. In 2000, she received an Exemplary Classroom Award from Foxfire.

Sharon helped to edit All Roads Lead Home, a compilation of Nebraska student place-based writing funded by the Nebraska Center for the Book and available through the Univeristy of Nebraska.  Her own writing appears in Rural Voices: Place-Conscious Education and the Teaching of Writing, Teachers College Press, 2003. And her 2004 article “The Power of Place,” published in English Journal, 93(6) received honorable mention in the Kate and Paul Farmer Awards Competition.

This important article--”The power of place”--was included in an annotated bibligraphy on place-based education prepared by Clearing Magazine:

Bishop, S. (2004).
The power of place.
English Journal, 93(6), 65-69.

Place-based education can not only help to improve rural schools, but also the communities that support those schools. The author, a high school English teacher in rural Nebraska, began using local authors and places as a central part of her curriculum many years before she had even heard the term place-based education. She became involved with the Annenberg Rural Challenge, which in Nebraska resulted in 11 rural communities coming together to form a consortium called School at the Center. The purpose of School at the Center is to “aid in the revitalization of rural communities through reimagining local schools as a centering force for place-conscious living.”

The author describes her curriculum and how it combines two characteristics of place-based education identified by Gregory Smith (2002), cultural studies and nature studies. In these descriptions the author shares some examples of her students writing, which they do after reading works by local authors, conducting interviews with elders in the community, and visiting a nearby tall-grass prairie preservation. This article is important because it provides one of the few formal definitions of pedagogy of place or place-based education. The definition, which comes from the Annenberg Rural Challenge, is

“pedagogy/curriculum of place is an expression of the growing recognition of context and locale and their unique contributions to the educational project . . . pedagogy of place, then, recontextualizes education locally. It makes education a preparation for citizenship, both locally and in wider contexts, while also providing the basis for continuing scholarship.”

This article also provides a good argument for why place-based education is so important to rural schools and communities and how place-based education can be seen as a way to address the growing problem of population loss in rural towns.

Posted by Marcella Sherfy
on 11/30 at 02:49 PM
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© 2005 Montana Heritage Project

What is place-based learning?

Place-based learning escapes the “view from nowhere” that gives much of the traditional curriculum its abstract and lifeless tone. Teachers practicing place-based teaching look at the concepts of history, science and literature from the vantage point of particular places and times.

This doesn’t mean that place-based education should be provincial, concerning itself only with local affairs. Anyone who takes his or her individuality seriously knows that paying attention to what it means to be a particular person in a particular situation doesn’t mean being concerned only with one’s particularity, and the same is true of the communities that are the focus of place-based teachers. Good communities are very interested in how they are related to other places and how they may be studied as instantiations of patterns that also occur at other places and times.

Place-based learning invites students to reality test concepts by looking at evidence in the real world. To do so, they will need to look in the place the real world actually exists--that is, locally. As Charles Larmore puts it, “reasoning from where we find ourselves means reasoning about the way things really are.”

A cover story [no full text] about place-based education by Gregory A. Smith appeared in Phi Delta Kappa in 2002, signalling that the work of thousands of grass roots workers across the country had achieved some level of mainstream attention. Smith points out that place-based education is not new:

Jim Cummins and Dennis Sayers in Brave New Schools refer to the work of French educators in the early 20th century whose students collected and then compiled information about their own villages and sent the results to students in other parts of the country who were doing the same thing.3 In the 1970s, the Foxfire project in Georgia spurred a national movement aimed at investigating and documenting regional cultures across the country. The Foxfire magazines and then books were highly successful, linked as they were to widespread interest in rural folkways and the culture of Appalachia.

Local cultural research, according to Smith, demonstrates “that the ability to analyze and synthesize can be cultivated at least as well from materials that are directly experienced or investigated by students.” Furthermore, “teaching in this way does not require the elimination of nonlocal knowledge so much as the simple inclusion of the local.”

In addition to discussing cultural studies, Smith covers four other approaches to place-based education: nature investigations, in which students observe wildlife, conduct water-quality tests, or restore riparian areas; real-world problem-solving, in which students and teachers identify community issues and problems, study them, and propose possible solutions; internships and entrepreneurial opportunities, in which students explore local career opportunities and partner with businesses to expand their knowledge of economics and become more involved in community life; and immersion in community life through participation in decision-making activities at town meetings, chambers of commerce, city councils, or environmental agencies.

Smith concludes that policy makers at every level should give place-based education a close look:

The primary value of place-based education lies in the way that it serves to strengthen children’s connections to others and to the regions in which they live. It enhances achievement, but, more important, it helps overcome the alienation and isolation of individuals that have become hallmarks of modernity. By reconnecting rather than separating children from the world, place-based education serves both individuals and communities, helping individuals to experience the value they hold for others and allowing communities to benefit from the commitment and contributions of their members. The promise of place-based education bears careful consideration by education policy makers and practitioners, as well as by the general public. Instead of simply focusing more closely on practices that we know are ineffective for large numbers of students—an unfortunate consequence of the standards movement—place-based education has the potential to transform the very nature of schools.


Clearing Magazine has created an annotated bibliography of writings on place-based education.

Clifford E. Knapp, Professor Emeritus at Northern Illinois University, has compiled a bibliography of important works dealing with place-based teaching:

Bowers, C. A. (1995). Educating for an ecologically sustainable culture. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

Gruenewald, D. A. (2003). The best of both worlds: A critical pedagogy of place. Educational Researcher, 32(4), 3-12.

Haas, T., & Nachtigal, P. (1998). “Place value: An educator’s guide to good literature on rural lifeways, environments, and purposes of education.” Charleston, WV: ERIC Clearinghouse on Rural Education and Small Schools.

Nature Literacy Series. (Ed.). (1998). Stories in the land: A place-based environmental education anthology. Great Barrington, MA: The Orion Society.

Orr, D. W. (1994). Earth in mind: On education, environment and the human prospect. Washington, DC: Island Press.

Raffan, J. (1993). The experience of place: Exploring land as teacher. Journal of Experiential Education, 16(1), 39-45.

Smith, G. A. (2002). “Place-based education: Learning to be where we are.” Phi Delta Kappan, 83(8), 584-594.

Smith, G. A., & Williams, D. R. (Eds.). (1999). Ecological education in action: On weaving education, culture, and the environment. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

Theobald, P. (1997). Teaching the commons: Place, pride, and the renewal of community. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.

Traina, F., & Darley-Hill, S. (1995). Perspectives in bioregional education. Troy, OH: North American Association for Environmental Education.

Woodhouse, J. L. (Ed.). (2001 [August through November]). Special theme issue: Over the river & through the “hood:” Reviewing “place” as focus of pedagogy. Thresholds in Education, 27(3/4).

Woodhouse, J. L., & Knapp, C. E. (2000, December). Place-based curriculum and instruction: Outdoor and environmental education approaches. ERIC Digest. EDO - RC - OO - 6. Charleston, WV.

Posted by Michael L Umphrey
on 11/30 at 06:23 AM
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© 2005 Montana Heritage Project

Michael L. Umphrey - Teaching as Placemaking

Michael L. Umphrey has directed the Montana Heritage Project since its founding in 1995.  His first book, The Lit Window, dealt with the challenges of teaching literature in rural Montana high schools. It was published by the Poetry Center at Cleveland State University.

He attended the MFA program at the University of Montana, where his second book, The Breaking Edge, won the Merriam-Frontier Award. He has given many speeches around the country, such as the Saul O. Sidore Distinguished Lecture on “A New Story for Schooling” at the University of New Hampshire and ”Tinkling Cymbals and Sounding Brass: Hearing the Different Drum” at the MEA Conference in Montana.

“Like gardening, sailing, and politics, teaching is a craft of place. Though gardeners learn quite a lot from botany texts, it is the challenge of raising particular plants in particular places that draws them into lively encounters with books.

“Similarly, good sailors know quite a lot about geography, meteorology, and physics because such knowledge forms the context within which they work and play.

“And good politicians often have heads full of history because such knowledge is a practical necessity.

“If the goal of education is to be able to live well, and I believe it is, then education shouldn’t be divorced from efforts to live well in the particular--that is, local--places the students know.”

Posted by Marcella Sherfy
on 11/28 at 11:19 PM
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© 2005 Montana Heritage Project

Library of Congress Partners with Google

The Library of Congress just announced that Google Inc. has agreed to donate $3 million to be the first partner in a public-private initiative to begin building a digital library for the world.

Google Co-Founder and President of Technology Sergey Brin said, “Google supports the World Digital Library because we share a common mission of making the world’s information universally accessible and useful. To create a global digital library is a historic opportunity, and we want to help the Library of Congress in this effort.”

Librarian James Billington introduced the idea of the World Digital Library, which he believes would have both educational and diplomatic benefits, in a June speech at Georgetown University:

“Through a World Digital Library, the rich store of the world’s culture that American institutions have preserved could be given back to the world free of charge and in a new form far more universally accessible than ever before.”

Over 60% of the Library of Congress’s holdings are in languages other than English. Billington sees the project as a way for the experiences of these people of many different backgrounds to help people around the world:

“…recover distinctive elements of their own cultures through a shared enterprise that also may make it psychologically easier for them to discover that the knowledge and experience of our own and of other free cultures might be of more benefit to their own development than they would otherwise be willing to admit.”

This new project follows in the footsteps of The Library of Congress’s previous digitization project. The 1994 the National Digital Library Program has resulted in more than 10 million rare and unique materials available free of charge in the American Memory Web site.

This is another way technology is making it easier for not just other countries, but also rural America, to better understand, and become better prepared to shape, the world they inhabit.

Posted by Christa Umphrey
on 11/23 at 02:09 AM
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© 2005 Montana Heritage Project

Words from Henry David Thoreau’s blog today

and originally from his journals November 23, 1860:

“Most of us are still related to our native fields as the navigator to undiscovered islands in the sea. We can any autumn discover a new fruit there which will surprise us by its beauty or sweetness. So long as I saw one or two kinds of berries in my walks whose names I did not know, the proportion of the unknown seemed indefinitely if not infinitely great.”

I like this idea that there is always more to discover—even in our most familiar places—if we look closely enough.

There are many other ideas and writings of Thoreau’s that I think are insightful and useful in working to connect reading and writing to a clear awareness and curiosity to investigate the places around us. I think this site could be a useful resource. Every day there is a new excerpt posted from Thoreau’s writing (of that same calendar day).

Posted by Christa Umphrey
on 11/23 at 01:25 AM
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© 2005 Montana Heritage Project

Mark Gibbons - Places and Their Poetry

Connemara Moonshine, Mark Gibbons’ first full-length collection, was published by Camphorweed Press in 2002. His earlier collection of poems, Circling Home, won the Scattered Cairns Press chapbook contest. His first collection of poems, published in 1995, was entitled Something Inside Us. His poems have appeared in CutBank, Talking River Review, The Midwest Quarterly, The Comstock Review and Rattle.

He writes powerful poems, speaking in a voice that is not afraid of what matters. He talks about what we need to talk about, and it becomes more real and more important by being said. Mark values his deep Butte roots. He’s written poetry about Butte and enjoys the friendship of other Butte poets. After Monday evening’s dinner, Mark will read us poetry that both records and defines Butte’s distinctive character.

Mark is a poet in the schools with the Missoula Writing Collaborative in Missoula, where he lives with his wife and two sons. He’s a skilled teacher, and he has served as an “artist-in-residence” for Montana Heritage Project teachers--helping young writers craft poems of place.

Posted by Marcella Sherfy
on 11/21 at 12:07 PM
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© 2005 Montana Heritage Project

Chad M. Okrusch Wrestles with Difficult Questions about Butte’s Past and Present

Chad M. Okrusch is an assistant professor of communication and media studies at Montana Tech. He studies social systems as ecological phenomena, focusing on the social and ecological consequences of political processes such as Superfund reclamation along the Upper Clark Fork River. He is particularly interested in identifying and correcting processes that limit the possibility of healthy community renewal in places such as Butte, that have been environmentally injured.

In addition to teaching professional ethics at Montana Tech, Chad volunteers his support for the Clark Fork Watershed Education Project.

For the past four years Chad has studied at the University of Oregon in Eugene, examining such topics as environmental history, political economy, cultural studies, and ethics. Presently, Professor Okrusch is finishing his doctoral dissertation, “Ethics and Environmental Communication: A Pragmatic Critique of Superfund Discourse in Butte Montana.”

Chad’s professional interests and teaching experiences range from literature and history to the environment and ethics. His community service in southwestern Montana has ranged from coaching soccer to judging student science fairs.

Toward the end of our place-based learning conference, Chad will help us look honestly at some of Butte’s tougher issue as he talks with us about “Environmental History, Education, and Community Renewal in Butte.”

Posted by Marcella Sherfy
on 11/21 at 09:15 AM
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