HELENA — Fourth graders across the state will soon be learning Montana history from a textbook written in Montana. The textbook—“Montana: a History of our Home”—covers 13,000 years of Montana history in a way that fourth graders can relate to and enjoy.
Montana Historical Society outreach and interpretation program manager Martha Kohl wrote the textbook and a 320-page curriculum to accompany it.
“I hope (the students) understand Montana is a really interesting place, and they want to know more,” Kohl said.
Together, the textbook and curriculum give fourth graders a taste of what it’s like to be a historian. The book and hands-on lessons introduce students to primary sources like photos, census and first-hand accounts. Kohl said woven through the lessons are other important skills, like reading comprehension and analyzing primary source data.
The textbook and lesson extend beyond mining, gold rushes and European settlers. Kohl said she felt it was very important to cover Montana’s indigenous peoples—from when humans first arrived to the Native American tribes today.
“I hope (students) know there have been people living here from time immemorium, and the 12 tribal nations still live here and are really important to society today,” Kohl said.
Kohl had previously worked on “Montana: Stories of the Land,” a Montana history textbook for middle schoolers, but new standards from the Montana Office of Public Instruction require Montana history to be taught in fourth grade too.
Even though Kohl has worked on a history textbook and worked at the Montana Historical Society for 27 years, she said she still learned new things from primary sources while working on the fourth grade textbook.
“That’s what I mean by the excitement of evidence, the details of history that challenge your preconceptions,” Kohl said.
The textbook comes out in late May, but schools across the state are already ordering it for classrooms to use next school year.
“I hope that is sparks within (students) an interest in history more generally as well as a love for Montana,” Kohl said.