As a result of my participation in the Institute, the new unit of study I added to my curriculum focused on the Dust Bowl/Depression era. In years past I’ve obviously always covered this period in my United States history classes, but the lessons I developed this year were focused more specifically on environmental issues related to the Great Plains and the Dust Bowl/Depression. These lessons connect to seven broad Fort Worth ISD objectives for Social Studies and language arts education. With these objectives in mind, I developed the following lessons:
Description: 1. “The Great Depression: Causes of the Dust Bowl”
This was the focal lesson of the unit and involved historical investigation through individual research and group work. The historical question posed: Why did the Dust Bowl happen? I wanted students to realize from their research that the answer to this question is much more complex than a drought in the 1930s. I also wanted students to realize how history is a continuing process and to see the connections and cause-effect relationships from historical events a hundred-plus years before the Dust Bowl. This focal lesson required students to work in small groups on ten topics. The class spent one to two days in the school library researching their topics. I gave students several days back in class to use the books and other sources of information I provided for them. Then each group presented their research findings to the whole class in two to three minute reports. Students took notes on the reports they heard and then used those notes to formulate their own answer to the question, “Why did the Dust Bowl happen?”
2. “Video: Battle for the Great Plains:
I found a wonderful film produced by PBS video that fit exactly with this unit. The chairperson of the Social Studies Department was persuaded to purchase the video for our school library. Using the short teacher guide that came with the video, I developed questions for the students to answer as they watched the film over a two-day class period.
3. “History Through Literature”
I found three Wallace Stegner selections that fit particularly well into this unit. These selections give a personal perspective to the experience of a migrant life style and the Western landscapes.
4. “History Through the Arts”
I wanted to emphasize to students that we can learn a great deal about history by studying the arts of a particular historic period. The Depression/Dust Bowl era of the 1930s is a particularly rich period for this sort of study.
5. “The Great Depression and the New Deal--An Oral History”
I made this an optional/extra credit assignment. Students would need to interview someone at least in their late 60s to get an accurate, first-hand recollection of the Depression. Not all students have access to family, friends, or neighbors that are this old. If they do, this can be a wonderful, great learning tool, but I don’t think I can make this a required assignment for credit.
My students seemed to enjoy the lessons in this unit. We spent about three weeks altogether on the Dust Bowl, Depression, and New Deal periods. The textbook we use has two chapters related specifically to this period. In addition to the lessons I developed, students were required to read the two chapters. I had them work the map activities that accompany these two chapters. One map gave students a geographic perspective on where the Plains states are and exactly what areas were hardest hit by the drought and dust storms. Another map relates to the TVA project. We discussed generally how this project drastically altered the environment of the Tennessee Valley. Students also had to become familiar in general with the key people and terms of each chapter.
The first time you try out new lessons you discover a few things you’ll do differently the next year. Given time constraints and availability of school library resources, next year I plan to put together folders of specific materials related to each of the ten topics assigned in the focal lesson. This will help students focus their research in a shorter time period and help them to do more thorough research.
I has also planned to have at least one guest speaker and to make one field trip with the classes. (See the Enrichment Activities Sheet.) Time constraints, logistics, and schedules of various possible speakers prevented these activities from taking place this year. I’ll plan ahead a bit better next year. All in all however, I think the inclusion of these lessons into my curriculum was an excellent learning experience for my students.
Ruth Sullivan Paschal High School Fort Worth, Texas
“A child said What is the grass? fetching it to me with full hands,
How could I answer the child? I do not know what it is any more than he.”
From Song of Myself, Walt Whitman
Overview: This unit includes five lessons that require students to work individually and in small groups as they study environmental issues of the Depression era and view this historic period through literature and the arts.
Objectives--Social Studies and Language Arts:
Assignment: Due date: ____________________________________________
U.S. History Historical Investigation Teams 1. Historical Question: Why did the Dust Bowl happen? 2. Topic for investigation: ________________________________________________________ 3. Team: (circle your name:: ______________________________________________________ 4. Research notes: ______________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Page Three 5. Bibliography: (list sources below.) Page Four U.S. History Historical Investigation “The Great Depression” Name _________________________________________ Period ____________ Historical question: Why did the Dust Bowl happen? Use the class notes you take from each group report and formulate a one page answer to this question. Tie together the information into a “big picture” of conditions, attitudes, actions taken, etc., that led to the Dust Bowl of the 1930s.- ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Page Five In your opinion, how might the Dust Bowl of the 1930’s have been prevented from happening? ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ Could another Dust Bowl happen? Explain your response. ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________
Name __________________________________________________ Period __________ FACTS TO CONSIDER
Carol DuPaix Conroe ISD
Ambrose, Stephen E. Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996.
Battle for the Great Plains. Produced by National Audubon Society, Turner Broadcasting Systems, and WETA-TV, PBS Video, Alexandria, VA, 1992.
Benyus, Janine M. The Field Guide to Wildlife Habitats of the Western United States. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1989.
Campbell, Maria. People of the Buffalo--How the Plains Indians Lived. Vancouver: Douglas and McIntyre, 1976.
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Costello, David F. The Prairie World: Plants and Animals of the Grassland Sea. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1969.
Crumbie, R. Edward. Ghost Bears: Exploring the Biodiversity Crisis. Washington, DC: Island Press, 1992.
Cushman, Ruth Carol, and Stephen R. Jones. The Shortgrass Prairie. Boulder: Pruett Publishing Company, 1988.
Dary, David A. The Buffalo Book--The Full Saga of the American Animal. Ohio University Press, 1974.
Elms, Ernest H. Animals of the Western Rangelands. Happy Camp, CA: Naturegraph Publishers, Inc., 1986.
Flores, Dan. “Bison Ecology and Bison Diplomacy--The Southern Plains from 1800 to 1850,” The Journal of American History, Volume 78, Number 2, September 1991, pp. 465-485.
Flores, Dan. Caprock Canyonlands--Journey into the Heart of the Southern Plains. University of Texas Press, 1990.
Friedrich, Otto. “FDR’s Disputed Legacy,” Time, February 1, 1982, pp. 20-26+.
Garraty, John A., ed. Historical Viewpoints--Notable Articles from American Heritage. 6th ed., Volume one to 1877., Harper Collins Publishers, 1991.
Gould, Frank W. Common Texas Grasses--An Illustrated Guide. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1978.
Holthams, Gary, ed. A Society to Match the Scenery: Personal Visions of the Future of the American West. Boulder: University Press of Colorado, 1991.
Hook, Jason. The American Plains Indians. London: Men-at-Arms Series, Osprey Publishing Ltd., 1985.
Hughes, J. Donald. American Indian Ecology. El Paso: University of Texas at El Paso, 1983.
Jackson, Wes. “Becoming Native to This Place.” Lexington: The University of Kentucky Press, 1994.
Lubbock, Chamber of Commerce. “The Llano Estacado.” Lubbock, Texas.
Manning, Richard. Grassland: The History, Biology, Politics, and Promise of the American Prairie. New York: Viking, 1995.
Matthews, Anne. Where the Buffalo Roam. New York: Grove Press, 1992.
Matthiessen, Peter. Indian Country. New York: Penguin Books, 1992.
McCoy, Ronald. “Circles of Power,” Plateau, Volume 55, Number 4. The Museum of Northern Arizona, 1991.
McLuham, T. C. Touch the Earth--A Self-Portrait of Indian Existence. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1971.
Mishkin, Bernard. Rank and Warfare Among the Plains Indians. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1940.
Nash, Roderick Frazier. American Environmentalism--Readings in Conservation History. New York: McGraw-Hill Publishing Co., 1990.
Norris, Kathleen. Dakota: A Spiritual Geography. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1993.
Parker, Steve. How Nature Works. New York: Random House, 1992.
Sandoz, Mari. Love Song to the Plains. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1961.
Sherow, James Earl. Watering the Valley. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 1990.
Stegner, Wallace. Beyond the Hundredth Meridian: John Wesley Powell and the Second Opening of the West. New York: Penguin Books, 1992.
Stegner, Wallace. Where the Bluebird Sings to The Lemonade Springs: Living and Writing in the West. New York: Penguin Books, 1992.
Udall, Stewart L. The Quiet Crisis and the Next Generation. Salt Lake City: Gibbs-Smith Publisher, 1988.
U.S. Department of the Interior, Geological Survey, Eros Data Center, Sioux Falls, SD 57198.
Waldman, Carl. Atlas f the North American Indian. New York: Facts on File Publications, 1985.
Worster, Donald. Dust Bowl: The Southern Plains in the 1930s. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1979.