History Mystery is an educational outreach tool that is the brain child of David K.Wade of BLM’s Billings Curation Center and Susan Austin, marketing and outreach director for the Western Heritage Center. It introduces junior high students to some of the basics of conducting research while weaving in local history and geography. It also helps instill an appreciation for preserving cultural resources.
History Mystery kits were given to Billings area schools November 14, and after a brief overview, teachers eagerly tried the multimedia curriculum out themselves.
Each kit contains a wide variety of research material that can be used to find answers to the many questions surrounding Sacrifice Cliff near Billings; questions such as where it actually was and when, why and how it was used. Research information is grouped into one of several packets depending on its source (libraries, museums, government agencies, historians, internet/media). The information may be in the form of newspaper or magazine articles, books, maps, television newscasts, photographs, and so on. Students digest the research material and compile evidence to solve the mystery. It turns out that there is no definitive answer to the Sacrifice Cliff questions, an interesting discovery for students.
Plans are to create a new Mystery kit for each of the next four or five years that will be added to each school’s teaching arsenal.