A Narrative History of the Montana Heritage Project



Building on the Past

Renee Rasmussen

Chester High School

2001-02

“This was more than a paper to me,” said Jamie Sparks when she finished her research essay. “It was an experience I will never forget. I interviewed people about the most tragic event that has happened in their lives, and I learned a lot.”

To get ready to complete their research essays, learners practiced a range of research techniques. They became familiar with the extensive collection of work completed by earlier classes in their ongoing work by researching and writing a column for the Liberty County Times: “This Week in Local History.” Juniors and seniors also began work on 300-word local history pieces for the Chester Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber is working on a tourism brochure, and will use Montana Heritage Project research as the basis for their history sections.

Learners also identified photographs, researched them, and created displays for the Liberty County Museum.

To combine archival and interview-based research, learners wrote papers about family heirloom. This led them to think through questions about their relationship to their family and to reevaluate their notions about heritage and community.

After the September 11 terrorist attacks, learners explored interviewing more thoroughly by creating web pages based on interviews. One group talked to an air traffic controller from the east coast who was on duty September 11. One interviewed a soldier from World War II who was on his way to invade Japan as the U.S. dropped the bomb. Listening to the historic record can be a hard job for teens when that listening must come in textual form, but personal interviews provide compelling “listening” experiences. One student talked of an interviewee unexpectedly crying during an interview. One talked of feeling a bond with the couple being interviewed. “It is this interaction between generations that make the project work,” said Renee.

After learners had completed these research projects, they were assigned 10-page research papers which would be bound in a single volume and donated to the local museum, the local library, the school library, and the Montana Historical Society as well as any other interested parties. “Writing this paper was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do,” noted Kevin Fenger.

To print a final report for the year-end binder, click here.
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2002 Montana Heritage Project
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