Education

School Tour Onsite Programs

The Historical Museum at Fort Missoula specializes in Keeping Missoula County’s History alive. Our tours tell the stories of Missoula from the homestead period through the present. We have field trip options to suit any grade level and interest within Missoula’s history and some with more global themes. To find out more about how our tours relate to Montana Social Studies Standards contact Kristjana.

Each theme has a number of options depending on your class size and how long you would like to spend at Fort Missoula. In most cases we will break the class into smaller groups to rotate through activity stations to ensure the best possible docent to student ratio. If you don’t see what you’re looking for, contact Kristjana for more options.

A Homesteader’s Life for me!

Interior of a rustic cabin

Learn what life was like in the Missoula Valley during The Homestead Era. Settlers of many nationalities were lured by railroad advertisements and popular magazine articles of the times to stake a claim in the vast valleys and forests of western Montana. The Hayes Cabin, a 1920's era cabin originally built to house loggers in the Potomac Valley, sets the stage for students to learn all about homesteading life.

Stations (45 minutes each choose 1 to 3):

  • Homestead Cabin
    • Students will handle everyday objects and guess their uses, discover the skills needed to survive on the rugged and harsh frontier, and gain a deeper understanding of how the Homestead Acts of the late 1800's and early 1900's shaped the Montana we know today.
  • Perpetual Monday
    • Ever think about how clothes got cleaned before electricity and running water? Step back in time and experience laundry in the homestead era. Learn about the chemistry of soaps available to homesteaders and experience the hard labor of washing clothing during the late 19th and early 20th century.
  • St. Michael’s Church
    • Visit one of the oldest buildings in the Missoula Valley and hear how the church was established and what role the church played in the lives of early residents.
  • Apple Days (fall)
    • Did you know that from the European settlement of the United States until orange juice became popular in the 20th century apple cider was the most popular beverage in the United States? Join us in learning the traditional method for making apple cider along with activities related to the science of apples and their history.
  • Grant Creek School House
    • Have schools always been the same? Find out what your school day would be like if you were a student in the Missoula Valley around 1900! Experience the original ‘tablets’, old school discipline and traditional games!
  • Missoula History Exhibit Tour (indoors)
    • Take an imaginary covered wagon trip back in time to discover Missoula history, from the time the Salish and other Native American tribes fished, hunted, and gathered, through the 1940s when Fort Missoula was a World War II internment camp for Italians, Japanese-Americans, and Germans. Handle and discuss various objects that the homesteaders would bring with them on the journey and explore 250 years of Missoula's history in this exhibit.
  • Making History through Objects
    • All we need to know about history was written down right?! Nope! Come learn about history through objects, the things left behind, passed down or found through archaeological digs. Check out some real and replica artifacts and try your luck at figuring out their purpose. Students will work together to record their artifact group and present their findings at the end of the session.

Growing the Garden City – Indoor and Outdoor options

150 years ago David Pattee, Frank Worden and C.P. Higgins moved their operations from Hellgate to the banks of the Rattlesnake Creek, marking the beginning of what would become the city of Missoula.

Stations (45 minutes each, choose 1 to 3):

  • Growing the Garden City exhibit and activity (indoors)
    • Visit the new Growing the Garden City exhibit and explore how Missoula went from the new location of a mill and a trading post to the bustling city it is today. Meet the cast of characters who shaped the development of Missoula, see the objects that remain from early days and share your thoughts about what makes a community. Compare and contrast the Missoula community today and in the past.
  • Missoula Camera Club exhibit and activity (indoors)
    • What was photography like before the age of cell phones and selfies? The Missoula Camera Club was a group of photography hobbyists learning the ropes of this new technology in the early 20th century. Compare and contrast the photos on display with the photos you or your family members. Try out an early version of 3D!
  • A visit to the Homestead House
    • Step inside an early 20th century log cabin from the Hayes Ranch. Discover what life was like in Montana during the homestead period by exploring real and replica objects from the late 19th and early 20th century. If you’re lucky you might even get to do some homestead chores!
  • Grant Creek School House
    • Have schools always been the same? Find out what your school day would be like if you were a student in the Missoula Valley around 1900! Experience the original ‘tablets’, old school discipline and traditional games!
  • Missoula Streetcar #20
    • Students will explore how Missoulians got around town in the early days by visiting our trolley barn. We’ll also discuss the stagecoach and fire truck that share a home with Streetcar #20. Students will be challenged to think about the process of restoring a historic trolley and will come up with reasons that preserving historic objects and buildings are important.
  • Making History through Objects
    • All we need to know about history was written down right?! Nope! Come learn about history through objects, the things left behind, passed down or found through archaeological digs. Check out some real and replica artifacts and try your luck at figuring out their purpose. Students will work together to record their artifact group and present their findings at the end of the session.

    One Room School House – Extended Experience 90 minutes

    One Room SchoolhouseDocent Angie with School Group in Grant Creek One Room Schoolhouse

    Hurry, hurry don’t be late, the bell is ringing! Travel back to the heyday of Grant Creek School House and experience what school was like 100 years ago. The 90 minute session will include a lesson with one of our school marms, some old fashioned discipline (all in fun) and recess!

    Fort Missoula – Military History late 19th/early 20th

    Have you ever wondered why Fort Missoula doesn’t have walls like the forts do in the movies? Come for a military history themed tour of Fort Missoula and learn about the early days at this ‘beautiful little post’, the 25th Infantry Black Bicycle Soldiers and the role of the Fort’s soldiers in Missoula life.

    Stations (45 minutes each choose 1 to 3):

    • Grounds Tour
      • Figuring out which buildings were ‘born here’ and which buildings were ‘adopted’ later is sometimes tricky. Let our knowledgeable docents guide you on an exploration of the Fort during military use, see if you can figure out what the funny hill in front of the museum was used for and imagine marching up and down the parade grounds.
    • Fort Fizzle
      • Using replica objects from the late 19th century students, under direction of the docent, will act out the story of Fort Fizzle in order to understand the complicated political and human concerns that led up to the battle between the soldiers stationed at Fort Missoula and the Nez Perce.
      • A visit with Captain Rawn - On special occasions Captain Rawn, who fought at the battle of Fort Fizzle will visit with students and tell about the battle through his perspective. Must book three weeks in advance.
    • Bicycle Corps activity
      • In 1897 the 25th Infantry Bicycle Corps traveled from Fort Missoula to St. Louis to test out the usefulness of the bicycle in war time. The group of black soldiers under the leadership of a white officer named Lt. Moss traveled 1900 miles over 34 days of travel! Learn about their arduous journey, their life in Missoula and where they went after their time after Missoula.
        • An opportunity to discuss the lives of African American soldiers after the civil war
        • Learn and practice military drills that would have been done on bicycles.
        • Feel the weight that each solider would have been carrying on their bikes and calculate your total load if you were on the bike!
    • Making History through Objects
      • All we need to know about history was written down right?! Nope! Come learn about history through objects, the things left behind, passed down or found through archaeological digs. Check out some real and replica artifacts and try your luck at figuring out their purpose. Students will work together to record their artifact group and present their findings at the end of the session.
    • Civilian Conservation Corps
      • During the Great Depression the Civilian Conservation Corps was created to get unemployed Americans back to work while bettering the nation. Hear stories about Fort Missoula’s role in this project and participate in CCC inspired projects on the Fort grounds (depending on season).

    Fort Missoula – Bella Vista/ADC – World War II Alien Detention Center

    After the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, the US government decided to move ‘potentially dangerous’ Japanese away from the coasts and into detention centers and later internment camps. Fort Missoula was home to one of the early Alien Detention Centers where Japanese men who were leaders in their community were kept during the war, as well as Italians who had been World’s Fair workers or detained on seized ships and some German nationals.

    Stations (45 minutes each choose 1 to 3):

    • Tour of Alien Detention Center (ADC)
      • Guided tour of barracks used to house Japanese and Italian detainees – new exhibit coming Fall 2014
      • Optional discrimination activity to encourage students to think about how Japanese people were treated during World War II.
    • Tour of Courtroom
      • Many of the Japanese detainees were brought before a council to prove their loyalty to the US, visit the site of these hearings and compare and contrast with current judicial process.
    • Guided Discussion and Wrap Up
      • Because visiting the ADC can bring up challenging subjects, finish the tour with a guided discussion about WWII, internment and discrimination.

    Forestry and Fires

    Fire Lookout TourFire Lookout Tour

    Fort Missoula has been an important place for the Forest Service as well and in this tour we’ll tell the story of the importance of forestry and fire fighting in Western Montana.

    Stations (45 minutes each, choose 1 to 3):

    • Tour of both fire lookouts
      • Visit the Miller Creek Guard Cabin and then climb the stairs to visit the Sliderock Lookout, learn about the changes in
      • 1910 Fire discussion and activity – explore how that fire changed how our forests are managed and learn about local heroes.
    • Fire Science Activity - TBD
    • Tour of locomotive and timber related cars, library car (once open).
      • See how the timbers harvested from our forests made their way to sawmills and eventually to be used in construction of homes and businesses.
    • Tour of Sawmill/Teepee burner
      • Learn about the temporary sawmills that were set up near foresting sites.
      • Air pollution activity – we’ll learn about how the geography around Missoula and the burning of sawmill waste made for a pretty smoky valley!

    Transportation

    What role did the railroad, trolleys, stage coaches and covered wagons play in settlement and development of Missoula? How would getting around Missoula be different in 1914 differ from 2014?

    Stations (45 minutes each, choose 1 to 3):

    • Forestry Railroad Tour
      • Step inside the cab of Big Blackfoot Railway Willamette #7 Shay-type logging locomotive for a unique tour. Discover the daily duties of its engineer and the basic aspects of controlling the gear-driven locomotive. Learn the main parts of this 1923 locomotive, one of 30 built worldwide. Identify how energy is converted from the burning of fuel to the mechanical transfer of energy which moved the 150,000 pound locomotive.
    • Drummond Depot
      • Step back into time and visit a railroad depot restored to its 1910 heyday. Your docent will lead you through activities designed to understand how important the railroad was to the settlement of the Western United States.
    • Missoula Streetcar #20
      • Students will explore how Missoulians got around town in the early days by visiting our trolley barn. We’ll also discuss the stagecoach and fire truck that share a home with Streetcar #20. Students will be challenged to think about the process of restoring a historic trolley and will come up with reasons that preserving historic objects and buildings are important.
    • Always a bike friendly town?
      • Who was the first bicycle owner in Missoula? Did you know that a bicycle store was one of the first businesses in Missoula? Find out about the special role of bicycles at Fort Missoula, compare and contrast the pros and cons of horses, bicycles and cars in war time.

    Apple Days (Extended) – focus on early Missoula history and apple trees in the Bitterroot valley

    Apple Press at Apple DaysChildren operate the apple press during apple days

    Did you know that from the European settlement of the United States until orange juice became popular in the 20th century apple cider was the most popular beverage in the United States? Join us in learning the traditional method for making apple cider along with activities related to the science of apples and their history.

    Stations (45 minutes each, choose 1 to 3):

    • Homemade Apple Cider
      • Step on up to the cider press and learn how to turn an apple into delicious apple cider. We’ll discuss the how the apple you choose affects the flavor of the drink, what happens if you let the cider sit around for a few days and some uses for the apples after they’ve been pressed.
    • Amazing Apples
      • We know apples taste good, but where do they come from? Learn a bit about the history of apples and the growth cycle of an apple tree – seed, tree, flower, fruit!
    • Grounds Tour
      • Let’s explore some of the buildings on the Fort’s ground and think about whether or not the people who used the buildings would have been cider drinkers. Specific buildings can be arranged ahead of time with the education director.