Teachers from across the United States came to Montana in the summer of 2011 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: Workshops for School teachers. 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. Lora Bishop, Overland Park, Kansas (2011)

    “How History Is Learned” (Kindergarten)

    Students will create a work of art showing their concept of long ago in terms of subject matter and objects found in history in the late 1800s.

  2. Justin Czarka, Bronx, New York (2011)

    “Where Does It All Come From” (ESL Grades 2-4)

    This lesson introduces students to the vocabulary and process of mining as they extract chocolate from cookie dough to turn into a chocolate bar.

  3. Teri Fulton, Kansas City, Kansas (2011)

    “Who Are You And Why Are You In Montana?” (Grade 4)

    Students will learn to identify the state of Montana on a blank map of the United States, about the early settlers in Montana, and about the importance of the mining industry to settlement.

  4. Lisa Goodwin, Elberta, Alabama (2011)

    “Learning about Lewis and Clark” (Grade 4)

    Students will learn about Lewis and Clark as they practice their reading skills.

  5. Janet Ioder, Victor, Montana (2011)

    “Mining in the West” (Grade 1)

    Students will be introduced to Montana history (before Montana officially became a state) and learn about mining and miners’ lives through child-friendly picture books.

  6. Debbie Kaufmann, Huntsville, Alabama (2011)

    “Mine Your Manners: An Overview of Placer, Hydraulic, Dredge, and Hard Rock Mining ” (Grade 5)

    In this exploratory, hands-on, 4-day lesson, students will learn about various mining methods used in the 1800s.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. Isela S. Rodriguez, Hialeah, Florida (2011)

    “In Search of American Legacies—Frontier Women Segment: Laura Ingalls Wilder & Mary Ronan” (Grades 4-5)

    Students will read biographical/autobiographical texts about Mary Ronan (who grew up during the Montana gold rush) and Laura Ingalls Wilder (who grew up on the homesteading frontier) to learn about the lives pioneer women and will publish a multimedia presentation to demonstrate acquired knowledge.

  10. Maria Steinbeisser, Kingston, Washington (2011)

    “Abraham Lincoln and the Copper Penny” (Kindergarten-Grade 3)

    Students will learn the basics of copper mining and minting of the penny while learning about Abraham Lincoln. This unit is designed to be taught for President’s Day and continues with a unit on money.

  11. Catherine Tompkins, Chesterfield County, Virginia (2011)

    “Mining Gallery Walk: Intro to Mining in the USA” (Grade 4)

    Through primary source documents, videos, websites, and photographs, students will be introduced in the mining industry in the United States and the Appalachian Plateau region of Virginia. Students will gain empathy for the lives of miners and will discover how industry can change the cultural landscape of a community/region.

  12. Marla Unruh, Helena, Montana (2011)

    “The Poor City on the Richest Hill” (Grades 4-5)

    Students will create a 3-D model representing life in Butte at the turn of the twentieth century as a way to understand how wealth and poverty existed side by side; how the few used their power and what they did with their treasure; and how the many lived in poverty.

middle school lesson plans

  1. Kathleen Bailey, Olmstead, Kentucky (2011)

    “Effects of Copper Mining on Butte, Montana” (Grade 6)

    Students will learn about open pit mining and its environmental impact while recognizing the many domestic uses for copper. Students will make flip books that will reflect their mastery of the subject.

  2. Barb Ehinger, Fort Wayne, Indiana (2011)

    “If We Can’t Grow It, We Must Mine It” (Grade 8)

    Students will use mine muffins for blueberries and examine primary and secondary documents to learn about precious metals, what makes them valuable, where they are located, the people who mined them, how they were processed, and financial and environmental effects of mining.

  3. Cedric J. Hairston, Chatham, Virginia (2011)

    “The Life of Sarah Gammon Bickford” (Grades 6-8)

    Students will recognize the contributions and struggles of nineteenth-century African American Montana businesswoman Sarah Bickford and understand that all citizens can contribute to the state.

  4. Lauren Italiano & Sam McGraw (2011)

    “Searching for Sacagawea” (Grade 8)

    Students will learn about Sacagawea’s role in the Lewis and Clark Expedition while becoming familiar with the US History in Context database (which they will be using for other research projects).

  5. Gregory J. Lucotch, Lewistown, Montana (2011)

    “Viewing Mining in Montana” (Grade 7)

    Students will demonstrate their understanding of geography by locating important mining camps in Montana. They will explore photographs and reminiscences to discover what life was like in early mining communities.

  6. 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.

  7. Bart Popowski, Rapid City, South Dakota (2011)

    “The Spoon River Anthology Comes to the Richest Hill” (Grades 7-8)

    Students studying the Spoon River Anthology will apply what they have learned about its literary elements to a different place and time, by writing epitaphs of characters who would have lived in Butte between 1914 and 1921, during the seven years of martial law.

  8. Pam Rumage, Memphis, Tennessee (2011)

    “Digging Mining–Making a Big Book about Mining” (Grade 8)

    Students will research information on mining in America between 1850 and 1890 and complete a book on the topic to share with a second-grade class.

  9. C. J. Shields, Greencastle, Indiana (2011)

    “Introduction to Mining” PDF 1, PDF 2, PDF 3 (Grades 7-8) Resources

    Students will be introduced to the economic, environmental, and personal impact of mining through primary source documents, a Google Earth tour of mining sites, and an exercise in which students mine chocolate chip cookies for chocolate chips.

  10. Joan Tracy, Concord, California (2011)

    “Plot Structure: Using Girl from the Gulches: The Story of Mary Ronan and the Graphic Novel Form” (Grade 8)

    Students will read Girl from the Gulches: The Story of Mary Ronan and create a graphic novel (or novelette) of the story. In so doing, they will learn both about life in a mining camp and the literary concept of plot structure.

  11. Richard Vanden Bosch, Hickman, California

    “ 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.

  12. Lauren Weinstein, Orlando, Florida (2011)

    “Rethinking the Writing Process” (Grade 6) Resources

    Students will analyze local historical buildings and then use their experiences to complete an analogy comparing a building to a piece of writing and the changes to the building’s appearance and use over time to the changes a piece of writing undergoes during the writing process.

  13. Connie Wodrich, Rapelje, Montana (2011)

    “Introduction to Placer Mining” (Grade 6-8) Resources

    Students will learn about placer mining and placer mining communities through readings, historical photographs, and documents, a PowerPoint presentation, and a game that simulates the life of a miner.

  14. Eve Zeese, Irvington, New York (2011)

    “Life in Western Mining Towns DBQ” (Grade 8)

    Students will examine primary source documents and then create a document based essay about life in western mining towns as a culminating exercise to a unit focused on the diverse people and conditions in nineteenth-century western mining towns.

high school lesson plans

  1. Connie Booth, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (2011)

    “What Will Huck Finn Find in the ‘Territory’?: An Examination of the Art of Charles M. Russell and Photography from the Mining Towns of Montana” (Grade 11)

    At the end of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Huck decides to light out for the territory to avoid being civilized. Students will use art and historical photographs to take a look at Twain’s territory, and will debate whether Huck has a realistic view of what to expect.

  2. Wil Crabtree, Lusaka, Zambia (2011)

    “E Pluribus Unum: The Melting Pot (of Gold) and (Railroad) Ties that Bind” (Grades 11-12)

    Students will examine primary and secondary sources on mining (particularly in Montana) to explore multicultural mining frontier and the development of railroads. Students will be asked to critically evaluate the positive and negative impact of the railroads.

  3. Jesse Freedman, McLean, Virginia (2011)

    “Debate: Energy Policy, Environmentalism, and Precious Metals” (Grade 10)

    Students will debate the following question: Should developing nations be held to the same environmental and safety standards as developed nations when it comes to the growth of their energy Infrastructure.

  4. Derek Frieling, St. Joseph, Missouri (2011)

    “Miners’ Messages” (Grades 11 & 4)

    High school students will take on the role of miners traveling to the West. Using an online forum, they will write home describing their experiences. Fourth-grade students will write letters of reply, taking on the role of family members of the miners that remained in the East.

  5. Anna Gilgoff, New Tripoli, Pennsylvania (2011)

    “Using Material Items to Understand Essential Components of Literary Works” (Grade 11)

    Students will make meaning and construct an understanding of a text (for example, The Great Gatsby, Of Mice and Men or The Things They Carried) by assembling items for a footlocker that reflect the characters and events in each novel.

  6. 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.

  7. Stephen P. Hansen, Winter Park, Florida (2011)

    “The Jim Crow Experience for African Americans in the Deep South and Montana” (Grade 11)

    Students will compare African Americans’ experience under Jim Crow in the Deep South and in Montana Territory

  8. Cheryl Healy, Seattle, Washington (2011)

    “Anti-Chinese Riots in Seattle, Washington, 1886” (Grade 11)

    Students will analyze primary source documents to understand the causes and impact (on both Chinese and non-Chinese) Seattle residents of the 1866 anti-Chinese riots.

  9. Gayitri Indar, New York, New York (2011)

    “Assimilation” (Grade 11) Resources

    Student will use maps and recipes to investigate ethnicity and issues of assimilation and the melting pot.

  10. Mike Jeanson, McComb, Mississippi (2011)

    “Contextualizing Art in History” (Grade 11)

    By analyzing artworks of John Gast, Charles M. Russell, and Karl Bodmer, students will gain understanding about American Indians and westward expansion. They will also learn how art can shape perspectives and how understanding a work of art requires studying its context, composition, and content.

  11. 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.

  12. Benjamin Joseph, Leominster, Massachusetts (2011)

    “Interactions with the Environment” (Grades 10-12)

    Students will explore how the demands of a growing population impact the physical environment, by investigating mining, farming, fishing, and plastics manufacturing.

  13. Eric Katz, New Rochelle, New York (2011)

    “Linking the West and East in U.S. Industrial Growth” (Grade 11)

    Students will analyze primary and secondary sources to consider connections between westward expansion and natural resource extraction in the West and the economic growth and industrial development of the eastern United States.

  14. Jodi Kayser, Lakeville, Indiana (2011)

    “The Life of a Copper Miner in Butte, Montana” (Grades 9-12)

    Students will learn about copper mining in Butte, Montana including the process of mining and the dangers miners faced daily.

  15. Seth Kirby, Boston, Massachusetts (2011)

    “Obstacles, Perseverance and Diversity in Montana’s Mining Frontier” (Grade 10)

    Students will analyze primary documents to investigate ways minority groups (specifically Chinese and Salish Indians) sought to reconcile their concerns within the context of Euro-American settlement of the West. They will discover the diversity of the mining frontier and recognize Native Americans and Chinese as active agents engaging in cultural exchange rather than simply oppressed minorities.

  16. Laura Paxson Kluthe, Lake Oswego, Oregon (2011)

    “Unit Lesson: Comparisons Across Time and Space—Themes of Capital/Labor, Unionism, Role of Government, Resource Extraction, Human Impact on the Environment” (Grades 10-11)

    Students will explore the complex interlocking pieces of the US industrial economy, immigration, capital and labor (including violence), role of government, and impact on the environment.

  17. Beth E. Kuhlman, New York, New York (2011)

    “Did Chinese Immigrants Arriving in Butte Find the Richest Hill on Earth?” (Grades 6-10)

    Students will be introduced to and have the opportunity to deepen their understanding of the Chinese immigration experience in the American West, using Butte as their lens.

  18. Jeff Loja, Norwood, Massachusetts (2011)

    “Photo Analysis-Montana Mining History” (Grade 11) Resources

    Students will examine photographs to learn how to analyze this type of primary source and about the mining era of Montana. A power-point presentation using a zoom-in technique will allow students to critically analyze an image. Then, students will practice what they learned with a variety of photographs.

  19. John Lyons, Groton, Massachusetts (2011)

    “Placing the Murder of Frank Little in Context” (Grades 11-12)

    Students will place into context the lynching/murder of Frank Little, an organizer of the radical Industrial Workers of the World ("Wobblies") to better understand the larger forces unfolding by 1917, including labor strife and radicalism, corporate consolidation across the economy, the role on government in wartime production, and civil liberties issues.

  20. Jon Mansfield, Mount Sterling, Kentucky (2011)

    “The Mining Frontier 1865-1920: Document Based Question Project” (Grades 11-12)

    Students will research a specific aspect of the mining frontier of the American West, examining a number of primary sources. Then, in conjunction with other students, they will construct a document based question based on their research.

  21. Julia McCarthy-McLaverty, Missoula, Montana (2011)

    “North Butte Mining Disaster: Speculator Mine Fire” (Grades 9-12) Resources

    By studying the worst hard-rock mining disaster in U.S. history, students will learn about Butte, copper mining and its hazards, reasons miners unionized, reasons for increased copper production during World War I, and how conflicts between capital and labor in the mining industry contributed to the passage of the Montana Sedition Act.

  22. Susan Myers, Temecula, California (2011)

    “Butteful Montana?” (Grades 9-12)

    By looking at the history of Butte open-pit copper mining, students will learn the economic concept of negative externalities, understand how government protects the environment, and understand how protecting the environment is an economic issue.

  23. Barbara Park, Ledyard, Connecticut (2011)

    “Interpreting Political Cartoons and Mark Twain’s Senator Clark of Montana (1907)” (Grade 11)

    Students will examine two political cartoons concerning copper baron and senator William A. Clark and read Mark Twain’s 1907 essay Senator Clark of Montana. They will improve their visual literacy and begin to understand Mark Twain’s political and social values and how they inform his fiction.

  24. Patrice Schwenk, Missoula, Montana (2011)

    “Sacred Art: Creating a Frontier Fresco” (Grades 9-12)

    Students will understand how murals are used to communicate a community’s cultural traditions by examining the frescoed murals painted by Brother Joseph Carignano, S.J., in St. Francis Xavier Church, Missoula.

  25. Marshall Smith, Colorado Springs, Colorado (2011)

    “Comparing Colorado And Montana Mining Camps” (Grade 11)

    Students will prepare a WIKI that compares the establishment and growth of mining camps in Colorado and Montana using a variety of computer software (i.e; Goggle Earth, Slide Rocket, Voki, Timeliner, YouTube).

  26. James Sparrow, Dayton, Ohio (2011)

    “That Which Survives: Permanence and Transience in Butte’s Historical District” (Grades 11-12)

    The students will compare photographs and written descriptions of late twentieth century Butte to 1916 Butte (based on the 1916 Sanborn map) to see what was preserved and what was lost. They will then formulate a tenable thesis explaining why some buildings/neighborhood/structures are preserved while others are not.

  27. Cynthia Szwajkowski, Springfield, Virginia (2011)

    “Mary Ronan: A Pioneer Girl’s Experience with the Western Frontier, Gold Mining, the Church, Railroads & Indians” (Grade 11)

    Through studying Mary Ronan’s reminiscence, students will gain greater understanding western expansion, Indian relations, and the impact of mining on the economy in the 1860s-1870s. They will analyze these themes by creating postage stamps illustrating major towns, people, events and by selecting 10 primary sources to include in a Document Based Question.

  28. Brooke Tolmachoff, Westminster, Colorado (2011)

    “Agents of Change in the West” (Grades 9-12)

    Students will examine photographs and other primary source materials in an anticipatory activity designed to pique interest in an upcoming unit on the role geography, cultural diffusion, ideology and technology played in shaping and changing the West.

  29. Tyla Walton, Salt Lake City, Utah (2011)

    “Is Kennecott Copper Pit in Danger of Becoming a Toxic Superfund Site Like Berkeley Pit?: A Contrast and Comparison of Butte, Montana and Bingham Canyon, Utah” (Grades 9-12)

    Students will compare the history of two mining regions—Bingham Canyon, Utah and Butte, Montana—and research mining’s environmental impact on both areas.

  30. Deborah Wasylik, Orlando, Florida (2011)

    “Dig into Mining!” (Grades 9-12)

    Students will mine chocolate from cookies to get acquainted with the difficulty of extracting natural resources. Then they will expand their understanding of mining by reading Dig into Mining, and complete a crossword puzzle based on their newfound knowledge.

  31. Wes Wasylik, Orlando, Florida (2011)

    “Labor Unions: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly, Case Study: Butte, Montana” (Grade 11)

    Students will study the development of labor unions in Butte, MT, as a case study of conditions that were duplicated in many areas of the country during this era.

  32. Wendy Hirsch Weiner, Davie, Florida (2011)

    “Integrating Film and Primary Sources to Compare and Contrast the Landscape of Butte, Montana” (Grades 9-12)

    Using the film Evil Knievel (1971), students will be able to view scenes from Butte, Montana, from over 40 years ago and compare and contrast the physical landscape over the last four decades.

  33. Jamie Hickman Wilson, Boone, North Carolina (2011)

    “Butte, America Case Study” (Grade 11)

    Students will analyze the history of Butte, using it as a case study to understand the larger history of labor, corporations, management, and responses to war. They will then use the website, historical photographs, and their own creativity to create a digital poster illustrating the life of a Butte miner in 1917.

  34. Mary Zbegner, Factoryville, Pennsylvania (2011)

    “Using Primary Documents from the History of Montana to Inspire Historical Fiction Writing” (Grades 11-12)

    Students will examine primary sources about Montana mining communities, 1865-1920, to become familiar with the process of writing historical fiction and to learn how research can lend authenticity to a piece of writing set in a specific age with a different life style.

  35. Valerie Ziegler, San Francisco, California (2011)

    “Federalism & the Environment” (Grades 12)

    Student will tie content covered in environmental science class and American government class via the topic of federalism. They will research the environmental challenges faced in different states, and related state and local legislation. Students will then write a memo about these challenges directed to an appropriate recipient.

  36. Robert Zimmerman, Marshall, North Carolina (2011)

    Industry, Labor, and Immigration—Butte America” (Grade 11)

    Using their textbook and the DVD Butte, America, students will understand how the experiences of the miners and people of Butte, Montana, fit into the framework of the rise of the industrial age, the rise of the American labor movement, and the wave of immigration to the United States from 1865 to 1920.