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Fifth-graders to benefit from Archives’ online educational program
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Fifth-graders to benefit from Archives’ online educational program

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The New Year started out with a bang for one Butte-Silver Bow government office.

The crew at the Butte-Silver Bow Archives just launched “Butte History in the Classroom,” an online educational tool.

Thanks to a $25,380 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Butte fifth-graders now have access to 35 informational packets that tackle historic Butte moments like the June 24, 1914 explosion of the Miners’ Union Hall to the -52 temperature on Dec. 23, 1983.

According to Audrey Jaap, Archives assistant director, the grant was extremely helpful as the Archives has been unable, due to COVID-19, to hold in-house field trips for Butte and area students.

An alternative teaching method was needed, hence the grant application.

“This program helps to connect students with their hometown history,” explained Jaap.

Jim O’Neill, curriculum director for Butte School District No. 1, noted that in previous years, students would go on a full-day field trip. Half the time was spent at the Archives; the other half at the World Museum of Mining.

At the Archives, each student would choose a topic, research it, and read a newspaper account.

“COVID came to town and everything got shut down,” said O’Neill.

The curriculum director can’t wait to have the program implemented and plans are underway to utilize it during this second semester.

“There is no history quite like Butte history,” said O’Neill. “Hopefully the kids will learn what a special place we live in.”

As an added bonus, the program also includes a virtual tour of the Archives’ reading room and all that it houses.

Jaap said the tour was added “so students can still get an idea of what an Archives is and some of the things that can be found in an archive.”

The project took approximately six months from start to finish. Archives staff met with retired East Middle School principal Larry Driscoll to choose the subjects. A summer intern was then hired to scan many of the archival materials and worksheets. Staff then pitched in to complete the project.

Students can also learn about the men and women who helped shape Butte, including Copper Kings W.A. Clark, Marcus Daly, and F. Augustus Heinze, acclaimed author Mary MacLane, and early-day Butte physician Dr. Caroline McGill.

There are also “lessons to be learned” from 1959, including the months-long miners’ strike and the Hebgen Lake Earthquake.

The online courses, which total 35, are user-friendly. Each digital packet contains a brief overview, a newspaper article, a questionnaire, and a word search.

Jaap noted that even though the educational program is geared toward fifth-graders, anyone can access them.

“I think any age group would find them interesting as well,” she said.

O’Neill agreed.

“The online program is a great resource for all Butte people,” he said.

While the Women’s Protective Union packet is Jaap’s personal favorite, there is something for everyone. Plans are also underway to add more to the packet list.

With field trips on hold for the foreseeable future, Jaap is thankful they can still reach out to Butte students.

“I think it is so important to share with these students the history of their community,” she said.

For details, visit https://buttearchives.org/butte-history-in-the-classroom/

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