Lifelong Learning Comes Alive in Montana

Social Studies teacher Jim Sparrow will spend five days in the old mining towns of Montana this July, following in the footsteps of the prospectors of the American Old West and amalgamating the history of days gone by with the teachings of today.

The workshop, titled The Richest Hills: Mining in the Far West, 1865-1920, is sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Montana Historical Society. Participants are allotted a stipend of $1,200 to explore three towns in Big Sky Country—Virginia City, Helena, and Butte—and study under the direction of faculty members considered experts in the field.

Sparrow, who previously earned an NEH fellowship to study in Springfield, Ill., applied for and was awarded the opportunity to attend the intensive workshop after submitting a letter of recommendation and an essay. Following its conclusion, all participants are required to complete a self-evaluation and a lesson plan.

“Through walking tours, museum visits, lectures, readings, and hands-on primary source activities, NEH Summer Scholars will learn about the development of placer gold mining, hard rock silver mining, and industrial copper mining; the racial and ethnic diversity of the mining West; mining's impact on American Indians; mining's environmental effects; and the relationship between capital and labor in mining communities,” according to its Web site.

The CJ teacher, in his seventh year with the school, said he looks forward to seeing Montana and becoming more familiar with the particular area of study. Additionally, Sparrow commented he has already made a spot for the lesson in his Advanced Placement US History curriculum for the 2011-2012 school year in hopes of better preparing students for material that could possibly be included on the national AP exam next spring.

Just days after the conclusion of all eleven of the AP Exams that were offered at CJ this school year (Biology, Calculus, Chemistry, English Literature/Composition, European History, French Language,Chinese Language, Psychology, Spanish Language, Statistics, US Government/Politics, US History), a handful of students were subjected to one final AP exam variation—a pilot test.

Two prototypes—one essay and one multiple choice exam—were administered to students in Mr. Jim Sparrow’s AP US History class on Thursday, May 12, and to students in Mrs. Amanda Ooten’s AP Biology class on Monday, May 16. Sparrow speculated that CJ’s selection by the College Board, the nonprofit group in charge of operating the nation’s Advanced Placement Program, is a testament to how well the school’s AP programs operate.

“We don’t send unprepared students in to take tests, and that is up and down across the building,” he said.

Charlene Wheeler, Director of Guidance, said CJ—an ACT testing center—has also been selected to offer a national try out of testing items in June 2011, which may be included in future versions of the college entrance exam. She believes that these trial opportunities speak to the school’s high standards of testing integrity.

“What I glean from these organizations choosing us is that we probably do things the right way around here.”