Montana Historical Society

Big Sky. Big Land. Big History.

Elementary School Resources

The following resources were created especially for use in the elementary classroom.

Montana: History of our Home Units of Study

Unit 1: Montana Today: A Geographical Study (Designed for grades 4-6). In this unit, students will investigate how climate, geology, and geography affect the lives of Montanans. In Part 1, they will construct population maps and look for patterns. In Part 2 they will read about Montana’s three regions. In Part 3 they will learn about Montana’s reservations and tribal nations. In Part 4, they will plan a route across the state, learning about the places they choose to stop as they go while improving map-reading skills. In Part 5 they will tie what they learned together to answer the unit’s guiding questions. Find the student narrative here.

Unit 2: Montana's First Peoples (Designed for grades 4-6). In this unit students will investigate Montana's earliest history from 12,500 years ago to about 1810 while practicing Common Core skills. They will explore the unique history and cultures of some of Montana's tribes through art, oral histories, and music. They will discover that there are different ways of learning about the past, including oral traditions and archaeology. Finally, they will make connections between the physical environment, material culture. Find the student narrative here.

Unit 3: Coming to Montana (Designed for grades 4-6). In this unit students will learn about the push-pull factors that brought people to Montana, and particularly the large role that Montana’s natural resources played in attracting people to the state. They will learn about the fur trade, mining, ranching and logging, and the effects these new enterprises had on Montana’s Indian Nations. Find the student narrative here.

Unit 4: Montana in the Twentieth Century (Designed for grades 4-6). In this unit, students will learn about the homesteading period, which brought tens of thousands of newcomers to Montana. They will also learn about the policies of forced assimilation (boarding schools and allotment), and their effects on Montana Indians. They will explore post-1920 immigration, research why the families of people they know came (and stayed) in Montana. They will conclude the unit by writing a biographical poem celebrating an amazing Montanan. Find the student narrative here.

Unit 5: Montana's Government and Tribal Nations. (Designed for grades 4-6). In this unit, students will explore the Montana constitution, the roles of local, state, tribal, and federal governments, tribal sovereignty, and the Seven Essential Understandings regarding Montana Indians. Find the student narrative here.

Unit 6: Montana: Land and People. (Designed for grades 4-6). In this unit, students will celebrate Montana with lessons on cowboy artist Charles M. Russell and an introduction to a dozen diverse Montanans, from the well known (Chief Dull Knife, Marcus Daly, Jeannette Rankin, and Elouise Cobell) to the lesser known but no less remarkable (Harriette Cushman, Maurice Hilleman, Susie Walking Bear Yellowtail, and George Oiye). Find the student narrative here.

Timeline: Find an illustrated timeline of Montana history here.

Hands on History

Hands-On History Footlockers  (Designed for grade 4 but used by teachers kindergarten through twelfth grade) Bring reproductions of clothing, tools, everyday objects, maps, photographs, documents to your classroom. User Guides with lesson plans and standards alignment accompany each footlocker.

Interdisciplinary Lessons

The Art of Storytelling: Plains Indian Perspectives (Graded lessons, K-3 and 4-6). These materials are designed to provide you and your students with an exciting way to incorporate Indian Education for All into your art curriculum. The material includes grade-appropriate lesson plans which are aligned with the Essential Understandings and the Montana Art Content Standards; and two PowerPoint presentations, one focused on winter counts and ledger art.

Montana’s Charlie Russell (Designed for grades 1-5) The Montana Historical Society boasts one of the best collections of Charles M. Russell art in the world. We invite you to bring your class to tour Russell’s masterpieces in person—but if you can’t come to Helena, we’re happy to help you bring the Cowboy Artist to your classroom with lessons aligned to the Montana Common Core, Art and Social Studies Standards, a biographical PowerPoint, and images of sixteen Russell paintings, letters, and sculptures.

Women and Sports: Tracking Change Over Time (Designed for grades 4-8) In this lesson aligned to both Common Core ELA and Math standards, students learn about how Title IX (a federal civil rights law enacted in 1972 that prohibits sex discrimination in education) changed girls’ opportunities to participate in school sports by collecting and analyzing the data to look at change in women’s sports participation over time.

Educator Favorites

Mapping Montana, A to Z, Lesson Plan (Designed for grades 4-8). Help your students expand their knowledge of Montana’s geography and Montana places and improve their map-reading skills with this engaging, interactive lesson.

Women at Work Lesson Plan: Clothesline Timeline (Appropriate for grades 4-12). This primary-source based lesson asks students to analyze historic photographs to draw conclusions about women and work from the 1870s through the 2010s. Students will discover that Montana women have always worked, but that discrimination, cultural expectations, and changing technology have influenced the types of work women undertook.

PowerPoint Lesson Plans

A Beautiful Tradition: Ingenuity and Adaptation in a Century of Plateau Women's Art (Designed for grades 4-5) These materials are designed to provide you and your students with an exciting way to study this colorful art form while incorporating Indian Education for All in your classroom.

Montana’s Twentieth-Century Immigrants: Mexicans, Hutterites, and Hmong (grades 4-6, designed for use with the Coming to Montana: Immigrants from around the World Footlocker)

Virtual Tour: Neither Empty nor Unknown: Montana at the Time of Lewis and Clark (Designed for grades 4-8) Based on an interactive tour given at the Montana Historical Society Museum, this virtual tour uses PowerPoints to bring the exhibit into your classroom. Also included in this lesson plan are post-tour lessons and discussion questions. If you are able to bring your class to the exhibit, you can find pre and post-tour lessons as well as a preview of the tour here.

"What Would You Bring?" Emigrant Families on Montana's Gold Rush Frontier (grades 3-8)

"Who Are the Métis?"(Designed for grades 3-6) This PowerPoint lesson plan introduces the Métis, an important Montana cultural group with roots in the fur trade.

Biographical Lesson Plans and Resources

Biographical Poems Celebrating Amazing Montana Women Lesson Plan (Designed for grades 4-6) This lesson asks students to research specific Montana women (by reading biographical essays) and to use the information they gather to create biographical poems. Through their research (and by hearing their classmates’ poems) they will recognize that there is no single “woman’s experience”; women’s lives are diverse and that people can make a difference in their communities.

Montana Biographies Here are links to online biographies of 48 Montanans, from Assiniboine/Gros Ventre educator and poet Minerva Allen. Businesswoman Sarah Bickford, copper king Marcus Daly, wilderness advocate Bob Marshall, physician Caroline McGill, decorated World War II veteran George Oiye and bronc rider Alice Orr to nun and advocate Sister Providencia Tolan, politician Burton K. Wheeler, and lawyer and Crow tribal chairman Robert Yellowtail. Designed particularly for use by 4th grade students for biography projects, each subject has links to two sources to facilitate meeting CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.9: "Integrate information from two texts on the same topic in order to write or speak about the subject knowledgeably."