Our Montana, Inc.

Back To The Future With Lewis and Clark-Technology Then and Now

A one-of-a-kind, award winning event educating more than 10,000 seventh graders about the Lewis and Clark Expedition

Do you remember the first time you ever saw a live buffalo – or maybe got to pet one? Or how about seeing a blacksmith make a horseshoe out of a hot piece of metal? For you maybe these have just been  dreams – but, for more than 10,000 7th graders from across south central Montana these have become wonderful, and treasured memories because of a one-of-a-kind history event in the country.  

Back to the Future had its beginning in May of 2006 and was held in conjunction with the “Clark on the Yellowstone” Signature Event of the 200th Anniversary Celebration of the Lewis & Clark Corp of Discovery Expedition of 1804-1806. It was conceived to be a “Lewis & Clark college for kids”.

A core group of individuals organized a week-long event that featured educational and entertaining modules and displays showcasing and demonstrating how members of the original expedition would perform daily tasks and how “back to the future style” those tasks would be performed today.

The event was designed to fit and augment a seventh-grade level educational syllabus about the Lewis & Clark Expedition and was presented to junior high students from Billings and surrounding SC Montana school districts and has been held at the MSU Billings City College campus yearly in January.

Each day for a week, 150 to 190 students begin with a half hour overview of the Expedition and an explanation of the day’s agenda which begins at 9:00 am and concludes at 2:30 pm. This includes an hour break for lunch and an additional presentation about what the expedition members ate (“A Taste of the Trail”) during the trip.

After the initial half hour orientation – the students break into groups of 15-20 students and begin a rotation through ten classrooms for 30 minute modules. These include: Medical, Mapping and GPS, Communication/Sign language, Flora and Fauna, Bison – the “Walmart of the plains”, Pompeys Pillar National Monument, Blacksmithing/Mechanical, Weather, Native American culture, and Nourishment/Taste of the Trail. 

Notes of Pride:

“Back to the Future” is the only Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Legacy program created from the thirteen National Lewis & Clark Signature Events hosted across the country in 2006 and it continues today.

In 2014, the National Lewis & Clark Trail Heritage Foundation presented its National Trail Stewardship Award to “Back to the Future with Lewis and Clark: Technology Then and Now” at its 46th Annual Meeting, in Richland, WA. The award recognizes outstanding contributions towards achieving the Foundation’s Trail Stewardship goals: leadership; trail stewardship techniques and programs; and trail stewardship support.

The same group of volunteers have given a week of their time to make this event happen for fifteen years!