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2005 Montana Heritage Project Summer Institute Syllabus

Syllabus: Montana Heritage Project Summer Institute 2005

Department: University of Montana C & I

Course Number: 455

Course Title: Montana Heritage Project 2005 Institute - “Lessons fom Wonderland: What
Can My Community Learn from Yellowstone? ”

Instructor: Michael Umphrey

Dates and location: June 19 through June 25, 2005, West Yellowstone, MT


This course is a training component of the Montana Heritage Project and is open only to demonstration site teachers (experienced teachers who have been funded by the Project for more than a year and accepted for independent work).  It targets Grades 9-12 teachers of language arts and social studies. (Note that during two days of the Institute, we are also providing training to teachers who have been funded as Project affiliates--teachers and programs in training. We concentrate on introducing them to the basics of oral history, community research, and community heritage events--and we work to integrate them into the rest of the group and its practices).

The Montana Heritage Project—a student and community education project that encourages high school students to compare and contrast community life in Montana now with that of the past—organizes student work into five steps that are captured by the acronym ALERT:
Asking questions—essential questions, expedition questions, and research questions.
Listening to sources that help address the questions asked.
Exploring actual sites and actual historic records and materials.
Reflecting on information learned, individually and through group discussion.
Teaching or transforming information learned into products, events, and materials that can be used by other scholars and community members.

Each Montana Heritage Project Summer Institute (this is the eleventh Institute) incorporates these ALERT steps into the week’s work, emphasizing different components during different Institutes or a different stages of Institute learning.

For the 2005 Institute, Institute participants will concentrate on the essential question: what can my community learn from Yellowstone--as a park AND a community; as a set of resources; as a set of political and management questions; as a metaphor. We will listen to speakers with widely varying understandings of Yellowstone and varying roles in the Yellowstone community: managers, writers, interpreters, historians. We will explore Yellowstone National Park and West Yellowstone resources. Throughout the week, we will reflect on what we are learning from speakers, from readings, and from onsite experiences through discussions and writing.  We do not anticipate providing or orchestrating how each participant answers the question “what can my community learn from Yellowstone.” However, here are examples of discussions or considerations that may be triggered by the invited speakers.

There are many other possibilities.

Every element of Yellowstone National Park is studied and analyzed (animal populations, visitor use, climate changes). Would my community be helped or harmed by greater scientific study and careful analysis? How does in depth data help us care for a place we love?

Yellowstone garners huge public attention. It is the object of myth and literature and endless press coverage.  Does this public attention, mythology, and literary treatment help to create good working relationships among groups, help to resolve problems, help to draw out the best in residents and managers? Or does it have a different effect?

West Yellowstone may be Montana’s first true tourist town. What effect has a full reliance on tourism done to create good schools, civic organizations, commitments to shared community enterprises?

For years, the Nation has prided itself on preserving Yellowstone National Park.  What are the benefits and the liabilities of concentrating our natural and historic resource preservation on one plot of land--as oppposed to an ecosystem, a community, a region, etc.?


As a result of completing this class, all participant teachers will:

A. Possess greater understanding of an unusual resource (Yellowstone) as a source of inspiration, information, metaphor, guidance, or challenge relevant to their own communities and to their teaching experiences.  (Listen, Explore, and Reflect).

B. Employ with increased skill the practices of detailed observation of, active listening to, and detailed recording of both classroom and field experiences. (Listen and Explore)

C. Demonstrate increased skill in finding commonalities, differences, and overarching questions related to how Yellowstone functions and how their community functions--drawing deeper meaning from new experiences and places. (Ask, Reflect, and Transform).

D. Possess greater understanding of the primary elements that comprise all good story forms including the principles of good storyline and script development that help readers, viewers, or listeners perceive answers to important questions in a powerful way. (Transform).

As a result of this class, participants seeking graduate credit will also:

E.  Demonstrate the ability to craft a compelling story (storyline) that answers an important question. (Transform).

3. SCHEDULE: See attached.


Pass/No Pass Option:

For 400 level University of Montana pass/no pass graduate credit and as a basic requirement for all funded Project demonstration site teachers, participants will, in teams, use the week’s information and experiences to prepare and present a radio documentary storyline. The script storyline (not a full script) is expected to effectively and powerfully answer the question: what can my community learn from Yellowstone. All workshop participants will be given the opportunity and be expected to question presenters and then follow-up with additional questions--to flesh out and test particular answers and ideas. Using the questioning techniques of investigative journalism and the skills of field observation, documentation, and research, participants will build their storylines from notes and journals they have kept throughout the week.

Storyline presentations will occur in a planned public discussion format that draws elements from classroom Socratic Dialogues on the final full day of the Institute. During the dialogue each team will give a 10-minute report in the form of a storyline treatment that includes: What is the story we want to tell? What’s at stake? What is the conflict? Who is the main character? What are the five moments from the week that we will present to our communities and why? Then, the rest of the group will critique and analyze these treatments based on the week’s examination of Yellowstone images and issues and on the teaching they have received about storytelling and script development.

For undergraduate credit, students will document their week’s experiences throughout the Institute in notes and journals. They will submit these notes and journals to the Instructor for assessment. If they choose, they may draft a storyline that they would use to answer the question, “what can my community learn from Yellowstone,” but they are not required to do so.  They will not be required to develop those findings into a radio documentary storyline or to present a storyline during the Socratic Dialogue.


Paul Schullery. “Searching for Yellowstone.” Montana Historical Society Press. Helena, 2004.

Selections from:

Gary Ferguson. “Hawks Rest: A Season in the Remote Heart of Yellowstone.” National Geographic Adventure Press. 2003.

Jim Howe, Ed McMahon, and Luther Propst, “Balancing Nature and Commerce in Gateway Communities.” Island Press, 1997.

Jim Robbins. “The Last Refuge.” Harper Collins West. 1994.

Jim Robbins. “Lessons from the Wolf.” “Scientific American. May 2004.

Paul Schullery. “Mountain Time: A Yellowstone Memoir.” Roberts Rinehart Publishers, Boulder, Co., 1985, 1994.

Diane Smith. “Letters from Yellowstone.” Penguin. New York, 1999.


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