best projects

Teachers from across the United States came to Montana in the summer of 2011, 2013, 2015 to participate in the workshop, “The Richest Hills: Mining in the Far West, 1865–1920,” sponsored by the Montana Historical Society and funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities Landmarks of American History and Culture. During the workshop, the attendees deepened their understanding of the mining process; learned how mining shaped each of these communities; explored the place western mining held within the larger context of the last phase of the Industrial Revolution; and gained new tools to analyze and understand primary sources. They then applied what they learned to create the learning activities posted here as .doc or .pdf files.

The learning activities are organized by grade level in three categories—elementary, middle, and high school—and labeled by grade level. In some cases, the activities include a PowerPoint or other resources, which are posted in an associated Resources .zip file.

elementary school lesson plans

  1. Pat Nelson, Cape Girardeau, Missouri (2011)

    “The Role of the ‘Newsies’: New York, Butte, and St. Louis ” (Grade 5)

    Students will research child labor, the role of newsboys in history, and how children organized to make an impact and improve their own futures.

  2. Linda Oesterle, Orchard Park, New York (2011)

    “Long Ago and Today” (Kindergarten)

    Students will examine photographs of the past and present to determine the subjects and to determine the differences/similarities between today and long ago.

  3. Corinne Colman, Bowers School, Manchester, Connecticut (2013)

    “Amazing Montana Women: Sarah Bickford, Evelyn Cameron and Jeannette Rankin” (Grade 4)

    Students will research one of these important women using resources from the Montana Historical Society and Chronicling America They will take notes and record resources used, allowing them to articulate how using primary source resources gives unique insight into history and their selected Montana women in particular.

  4. Florence Cronin, Saint Brendan School, Dorchester, Massachusetts (2013)

    “Voices from Montana” (Grade 4)

    Utilizing a “History Document Detective Sheet,” students working in groups will read words written/told by people in Montana over a range of time. They will gain understandings: about how westward expansion changed the environment and affected the lives of Native American people; about who is speaking and what his/her message is; about challenges faced by these historic voices; and, they will visualize events in sequential order.

  5. Tyler Lucero, West Irondequoit, New York (2015)

    “What’s in My Phone ” Environmental Science (Grades 4–6)

    Through a simulated smelting activity, students will learn that materials can be separated from one another using their unique physical and chemical properties, but that when this is done to provide materials for modern technologies, there are often byproducts that are harmful to human and environmental health and whose effects ought to be mitigated.

  6. Dalene Normand, Frenchtown, Montana (2015)

    “Who’s in the Hood?” History, Language Arts & Social Studies Grades 4+)

    Students will examine the US. Census for a community that grew due to a gold rush in the area and the census of the actual mining area. They will create graphs of the community demographics and compare them.

  7. Jonathan Riddle, Sewickley, Pennsylvania

    “Noises of the Industrial Revolution Social Studies (Grades 5–7)

    Students will research the new sounds the Industrial Revolution brought to their community, re-create those sounds, and create a video featuring those sounds in order to better imagine the Industrial Revolution, the environments it changed, and the environments it created.

middle school lesson plans

  1. Michelle B. Major, Rome, Georgia (2011)

    “Perspectives from the Gulches” (Grade 8)

    Students will evaluate primary source material (photos, newspapers, census, maps, court records, reminiscences, etc.) and use them to write a journal detailing life in a typical boom-and-bust mining town of the 1860s.

  2. Richard Vanden Bosch, Hickman, California (2011)

    “How Disasters Spawn Demands for Reform” (Grade 8)

    Students will examine the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire and the North Butte Mining Disaster of 1917 to become familiar with the conditions facing factory and mining laborers in the early part of the twentieth century, as well as how disasters spawn demands for reform.

  3. James Chester, San Jose Middle School, Novato, California (2013)

    “Stealing Dogs for the Klondike” (Grade 7) Resources

    Students will study newspaper articles from 1899 regarding dogs and the Klondike gold rush in order to gain an understanding of the historical context for the setting of Jack London’s The Call of the Wild. Students will also compare the Klondike gold rush to the Australia one, make inferences, and produce written responses based on the evidence presented in the articles.

  4. Shaunna Reinisch, Sand Creek Middle School, Albany, New York (2013)

    “‘You Don’t Look American:’ American Attitudes Toward Immigration from 1790–Present” (Grade 8)

    Through the research and study of U.S. immigration using primary and secondary source documents, students will articulate personal perspectives, describe major patterns and forces, analyze origins and motivations of ethnic stereotyping of immigrants, and detect parallels between the current immigration debates and the history of various anti-immigration movements throughout American history.

  5. Marc Lewis, Acton Massachusetss (2015)

    “The Butte Boycotts” Social Studies (Grades 6)

    After learning context through a secondary source, students will examine primary sources to explore the Silver Bow Trades and Labor Assembly’s and Butte Miners’ Union’s attempt to drive the Chinese community from Butte, Montana, in the 1890s. They will also investigate the response of one particular Caucasian woman, who refused to respect the boycott. They will make inferences about the boycott’s emotional impact and identify bias that exists in a primary source document.

  6. Jeff Lunde, Rochester, Minnesota (2015)

    “Who Migrates and Why” History and Geography (Grade 8)

    In this lesson, students will explore the demographics of the immigrants who came to Montana to work in the mines. This will include using historical census data to document basic characteristics of the immigrants to the mining regions of Montana, and then comparing that data to modern migration statistics to see if general trends are still true today.

  7. Lisa Smith, Grapevine, Texas (2015)

    “Speculator Mine vs. Chilean Mine Disasters” World Culture (Grade 6)

    Students will read about the 1917 Speculator mine disaster, the worst hard-rock mining disaster in American history and about the 2010 Chilean mine disaster to compare and contrast the two.  Students will learn the vocabulary of mining, how and why mining disasters occur and what we can learn to prevent future mining disasters from happening.

  8. Maz Troppe, Queens Village, New York (2015)

    “The American Dream: Myth or Reality?” Social Studies (Grade 8)

    Students will use a variety of sources and materials to analyze and evaluate the circumstances of the immigrant miners and their families in Butte, Montana. They will then write an argumentative essay about whether the immigrant miners and their families achieved the American Dream and, if so, whether it was worth the sacrifice.

high school lesson plans

  1. Tom Goetz, Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota (2011)

    “The Richest Hill’s Smoke Wars” (Grades 9-12)

    Students will investigate the environmental challenges presented by early twentieth century industrial capitalism by examining primary source documents relating to Butte’s smoke wars. Students will grapple with the conflicting, and intersecting interests of smelter owners (who produced both pollution and wealth) and residents of the surrounding areas.

  2. Mark Johnson, Shanghai, China (2011)

    “The Chinese Experience in the American West” (Grades 11-12) Resources

    Students will investigate a 1870s murder mystery by analyzing primary and secondary sources. In so doing, they will gain research and analysis skills while deepening their understanding of American immigration policies, the gold rush, the transcontinental railroad, American foreign policy, and the Chinese experience in the West.

  3. Martin Buchman, Plainview, New York (2013)

    “Creating a Mock Diary of a Westward Adventure” (Grade 11)

    Focusing on research and writing skills and creativity, students will peruse a selection of foundation materials and then choose historical identities and destinations, thoroughly investigating primary and secondary sources, and then create a mock diary of a Western experience circa 1860–1920. Used in its entirety, this lesson plan is a semester’s worth of work; however, the plan is adaptable.

  4. Graham Long, Catonsville, Maryland (2013)

    “Bakken Time: Comparing the Bakken Oil Boom to the Montana Gold Rush” (Grades 9-12)

    This lesson is designed for students to compare the gold rush of the 1860s to the “black gold” rush of the 2000s. In the process, students will learn how societies handle (or do not handle) the political, economic, social, and infrastructural components of a natural resource boom. Students will understand the link between resource discovery and economic development and examine the trade-offs between the necessity of mining/drilling and the importance of environmental preservation.

  5. Adam Cooper, Brooklyn, New York (2015)

    “Only a Miner” English History (Grades 9-12)

    This lesson plan asks students to learn about aspects of mining life through the study of a much-adapted folk song from the period of the late 19th century. Students will be asked to process and analyze the song for its visceral and intellectual meanings, for basic information about life as a coal miner and being part of a mining family, and for literacy devices employed to help convey ideas and subtextual understanding.

  6. Shannon Hansen, Ballston Spa, New York (2015)

    “Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones, But Rocks and Minerals are Killing People” Chemistry & Earth Science (Grades 10-12) Resources

    A series of interconnected activities will enhance standard curriculum regarding rock and mineral identification connecting these rocks and minerals to actual events and people, both past and present. Students will investigate aspects of mining’s past, current, and future issues through reading articles, watching videos, engaging in discussion and participating in written responses. They will examine Americans’ mineral use and the costs of extracting these minerals (mining disasters and wars fought to control mineral wealth) and will reflect on the ethical and environmental dilemmas associated with mineral use.

  7. Kathleen King, Covington, Washington (2015)

    “Unionism in the U.S.: A Look at Butte, America” US History (Grades 10-12) Resources

    Following an investigation of the changes precipitated by the rise of big business (and the personal philosophies of the capitalists who operated those businesses) in the Gilded Age, students will trace the defeat, resurgence, and decline of the labor movement in the U.S., using the story of unionism in Butte, Montana (once the largest urban center between Minnesota and Washington, Canada and Utah) as a case study. Students will read portions of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act and the National Industrial Recovery Act as part of their investigation of unionism and, in the end, will write a letter to the editor of their local paper to propose a specific course of action in a contemporary labor dispute.

  8. Phil Leonardi, Corvallis, Montana (2015)

    “Selected Montana Constitutional Comparisons and Imagery: 1889 and 1972” Social Studies (Grades 8-12)

    Students will compare sections of Montana’s 1889 and 1972 constitutions to in’s interests.

  9. Mike McGowan, London American School, London, England (2015)

    “A Case Study of the Gilded Age in America” AP US History (Grades 10-12) Resources

    The overarching content objective in this unit is to provide AP US History students with the opportunity to understand how many of the major changes affecting the United States between the years of 1865 to 1917 were also evident in the history of Montana.