The Montana Heritage Project Site History

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Tuesday, January 11, 2005

A History of the Montana Heritage Project in Great Falls Central , 2005
  A History of the Montana Heritage Project in 

Great Falls

Classes that participated

Computer Literacy

Teachers who participated

Sarah Zook

Students who participated

Cindy Arnold
Henry Buckhalter
Candid Cammisa
Ben Doerr
Nick Ford
Sean Geschwill
Nathan Henry
Jordynn Hoffarth
Lea Malatare
Brenna McDermott
Krissy Miller
Alyssa Morren
Amanda Rasmussen
Sterling Topp
Ashlee Wajer
Maura Wilson
Mary Woelkers
Tel Yatsko

Total Number of Students Involved: 


Community Members and Teachers who participated

Gifts of Scholarhip Created

interview tapes, tape logs, transcripts, DVD’s, database records

A Narrative History of the 2005 Project

Ask: Questions posed by Students

Eighteen sophomore students in the Computer Literacy class participated in this year’s Heritage Project.  They conducted internet research, interviewed veterans, presented their research, created DVD’s of the interviews, and archived their products in a database.

The Project started with students asking questions about World War II and the Holocaust such as:  What was it like to be in battle in Europe?  On the islands?  What was it like to be on the home front?  What was different about WWII than subsequent wars?  How were the soldiers viewed?, and What did Americans know about the Holocaust?.  To introduce the Project, students completed a web quest on WWII that required each student to take on the perspective of someone involved with the war (American Soldier, woman on the home front, Hiroshima survivor, etc.) They then told the story of the war from their perspective in the format of a PowerPoint presentation.  Students were encouraged to keep slides simple, use transitions sparingly, and cite all materials used.  They learned that PowerPoint is a tool for telling the story and not a toy.  Students then completed a web quest on the Holocaust and spent a couple of weeks examining the materials Mr. Leon Bernard, History teacher, collected in Holocaust workshops hosted by the Holocaust Museum. 

Listen: Researching the Historical/Literary Record

With questions fresh in their minds about what people at home in the United States knew about the events leading up to the Holocaust and WWII, students headed off to the Cascade County Archives.  They spent an entire day pouring over newspapers from the early 1940’s to get a feel for what news those on the home front may have been able to learn through the local newspapers.  They each spent 20 minutes listening to an oral interview of a local Monsignor (Gluszek) who had spent time in several different concentration camps during the War.  Its impact on the students reminded all of us of the importance of gathering stories while we still can as he has now passed on.  Students frequently discussed the serious issues involved and journaled about them throughout the process.

Now that students had some of the answers to their questions about the general background of the War, they were ready to interview someone with actual experience in the War.  Dottie Susag came in and conducted a two-day workshop training students on how to conduct oral interviews.  She demonstrated good and bad examples and fielded questions.  Students made initial contact with their veterans, and personalized their list of questions to be prepared for the interview.  They printed the paperwork they would need from the Veteran’s History Project site.  Then, they conducted the interviews with partners and usually with an adult mentor.  The interviews were recorded with a digital camcorder.  Three of the interviews were with people out of town.  These interviews were recorded over the phone with microphones to audio tapes. 

Explore: Contributing to Local Knowledge

With interviews completed, students began creating the writing portions of the Project—writing the tape logs and at least a portion of the transcript.  The more creative portion of the writing was the assignment to write a feature article incorporating information about the veteran’s experience as well as additional research into a portion of that experience.  Students generated more questions—some contacting veterans for a second informal interview.  They all researched their specific focus—finding great resources on the internet, as well as printed materials.  Many were loaned invaluable photos from their veterans as well as newspaper articles and other mementos the veterans held dearly.  It was this trust instilled in them from their veterans that started to solidify in the students the significance of the work they were doing. 

Reflect: Student Reflection Activities

Essays in hand, students began using the 6-traits to peer edit each other’s work.  Then I offered editing suggestions.  Portions of the essays were selected for use in the Heritage Evening PowerPoint presentation.

Then we entered the technologically challenging portion of the Project.  We wanted to burn the interviews onto DVD’s for each veteran.  We started using the – format DVD burner only to find that the DVD’s wouldn’t play in all players.  So we purchased another DVD-burner—this time a +/- format one.  It seemed to work better, although now we have been successful using both which drastically sped up the process.  Students were capturing the video, rendering it into .mpeg format, burning it, then incorporating the video into a DVD project with intro graphics and sound as well as title information and credits.  Then, they designed cases and labels and packaged them for each veteran.  The .mpeg version as well as a copy of the DVD will be kept in the GFC archives.

Students started planning how they wanted their Heritage Evening to go.  They decided they wanted a smaller affair and so designed and sent invitations to about 50 people including their veterans, school administration, religious leaders, and community members who helped with the Project.  They decided to serve a spaghetti dinner, then give their PowerPoint presentation, followed by a “star-spangled” cake reception.  With planning decisions made and duties assigned, students returned their attention to creating their portions of the PowerPoint presentation.  They pulled from their original WWII presentation, their essays, and photos and information from their veterans.

The Heritage Evening was held on May 3, 2005 and was pretty successful.  There was one glitch with the music, but the rest ran relatively smoothly.  A cheerleader presented the flag, girls’ choir sang two patriotic songs, Father Mac led the group in a pre-dinner prayer, and the spaghetti buffet line formed.  Students sat at tables with their veterans, kept their cups full, and talked with them about their projects.  They rotated through to make their portions of the presentation.  Then the homemade red, white, and blue angel food cake was served.  The next day in class, students filled a time capsule with thoughts on the Evening, suggestions for next year’s group, and +/- comments about how the Evening went.

Now that they had sources, interviews, tape logs, transcripts, etc.; students began creating a database to keep track of and access this information.  They used Access, created tables and a data entry form for entering records.  This portion is not yet complete, but will be by the end of the year.  Ideally, this information will be accessible via the internet. 

Teach: Students as Teachers

The gifts of scholarship that students returned to their community are:  the interview tapes, tape logs, transcripts, DVD’s, the Heritage Evening, and the database.

Personal Reflections

I have seen a lot of growth in the students understanding of the complexities of war watched them develop a greater appreciation for the experiences of those who were involved with them.  At the Heritage Evening, I had two community members approach me offering items from their personal collection for us to use.  This was great and reminded me of the importance of earning the trust of your community--showing them that we strive to do solid work and that we value their artifacts. 

Posted by on 01/11 at 03:33 PM

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