". . .What we have loved
Others will love, and we will show them how."

                                              William Wordsworth


Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Martha Kohl: The Homework of Place

Martha Kohl has applied her passion for understanding the past and for understanding historic places to a variety of professional positions.  Currently, Martha is a historical specialist and writer for the Montana Historical Society’s one-of-kind National Register of Historic Places interpretive sign program. Prior to that she served as the editor of the Montana Historical Society Press from 1995 through 2003 and was editor of Gateway Heritage, the Missouri Historical Society’s quarterly from 1991-1994. From 1988 to the present, Martha also has taught English, U. S. History, and literacy in Missouri and Montana universities and colleges. Martha has authored articles on topics ranging from the historic buildings of Forsyth, Montana, to African American enfranchisement to writing good papers for National History Day presentations. The Montana Committee for the Humanities recently awarded Martha a research grant to examine how Montana weddings—one of our beloved rites of passage—have changed over time and what those changes mean. This larger research project grew out of an article that she prepared for Heritage Education (Spring 2006), “Something Old, Something New: Weddings as Windows on Montana History.”

For this place-based conference, we’ve asked Martha to ground us in the combined skills of historiography and historic preservation. She’ll remind us how to “see” buildings and neighborhoods as distinct artifacts of the past. She’ll walk us through the primary historical sources that our students can plumb for still more information about those buildings and neighborhoods.  And then, she will demonstrate how big themes—the social and political circumstances of particular eras—influenced what we see in our own towns. In “Text and Context: Using Historical Sources to Understand Place,” look for a compelling presentation of how an excellent historian melds solid primary and secondary historical source research with the personalities of buildings, towns, and landscapes.

Posted by Marcella Sherfy
on 05/23 at 02:54 PM
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© 2006 Montana Heritage Project

Saturday, December 03, 2005

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

Friday, December 02, 2005

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

Thursday, December 01, 2005

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

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

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

Monday, November 28, 2005

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

Monday, November 21, 2005

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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© 2005 Montana Heritage Project

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Dublin Gulch-Sharing A Taste of Butte’s Music

Talk about the folklife and folklore of a place and you’ll soon be talking about its food and its sports--its literature and its music. Families from many countries and many cultures came to Butte to harvest copper in the “richest hill on earth"--very much including the Irish.  Montana’s widely known musical group, Dublin Gulch--named for a Butte landscape--began gathering and performing Butte Irish music many years ago. All the performers have other “day” jobs, but they get together often to refine and build their collection of distinctive songs and to perform for a wide range of audiences.

The group’s CD Any Day Above Ground is a Good One includes: As I Roved Out, Galway Races, Star of Munster/The Maid Behind the Bar/Cooley’s Reel, A Jug of Punch, The Irish Rover, Mountain Dew, An Feochan, Leavin’ Tipperary, Haul Away Joe, Si Beag Si Mohr/When the Boys Come Rollin’ Home, Off to California/Boys of Bluehill, Wild Colonial Boy, Black Velvet Band, Brennan on the Moor, Coppers & Brass/Langstern’s Pony, The Wild Rover, Risin’ of the Moon, Whiskey in the Jar.

For us, a combination of performers from Dublin Gulch (Tom Powers on vocals and bodhran, Mick Cavanaugh on guitar, whistles and vocals, Jim Schulz on vocals, guitar, mandolin and bouzouki, and John Joyner on fiddle, banjo and vocals) will share both these place-based songs--and the stories behind how they arrived in Butte and what they meant to that community.

Posted by Marcella Sherfy
on 10/01 at 12:24 PM
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© 2005 Montana Heritage Project

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Ellen Crain Introduces Us to Butte

Ellen Crain’s roots are laced through Butte history and its veins of copper, politics, social scene, architecture, social customs, family life, education, and tradition. She was born in the community and now raises her own family there. Not surprisingly, given her devotion to the preservation and understanding of Butte history, Ellen became director of the Butte-Silver Bow Public Archives. Located in a historic “uptown” fire station, the archives is one of Montana’s most professional community archives and serves a steady crowd of historians, script and fiction writers, students, genealogists, and public agencies.

Ellen draws on her understanding of community and place-based research as she serves on the Montana Committee for the Humanities and the Montana Preservation Alliance.

Ellen and Janet L. Finn have just published Motherlode: Legacies of Women’s Lives and Labors in Butte, Montana (Clark City Press, Livingston, MT, 2006). Ellen and Janet edited this collection of 20 essays about the diverse roles and experiences of women in Butte during the twentieth century. “Like the mother lode, the women of Butte have been a rich, if hidden, resource. We have chosen that single word in the title to represent the fusion of gender, labor, and abundant resource which lies at th heart of this book.”

In her luncheon presentation, Ellen will introduce us to the Butte she knows from the inside--a place like no other.

Posted by Marcella Sherfy
on 09/01 at 01:47 PM
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© 2005 Montana Heritage Project
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