The Texas Dust Bowl
Social Studies, Grades 4–8
Students will demonstrate understanding of the impact of the Dust Bowl on the lives, livelihoods, interactions, and migrations of every day Americans and Texans through the creation of a three-part series of letters written in first-person perspective to an East Coast friend. Through creation of the letters, students will evaluate significant events in the following three periods: the beginning of the Dust Bowl droughts, the worst part of the droughts, and the resulting resolution of the droughts.
Students should have a basic understanding of what the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl were.
The day before this lesson is to be completed, have students interview a relative, family friend, or neighbor who lived through the Great Depression. Instruct students to ask what it was like, if it was more difficult to obtain food, etc.
At the beginning of class, ask students to volunteer what they discovered in their interviews. Specifically inquire if students heard anything about the difficulty of obtaining food and if anyone discussed the Dust Bowl or poor growing conditions during the time.
If students do not have enough prior information, review them on what the Dust Bowl was before viewing the videos.
Instruct students to take out a sheet of paper and divide it into an upside-down T-Chart, ensuring they leave adequate room under the T for a third section. Have them label the two sections at the top of the page, “Description of the Dust Bowl” and “Impact of the Dust Bowl.” The area under the T should be labeled, “Resolving the Dust Bowl.”
As students view the videos, instruct them to take notes over what they see in the proper area of the T-Chart.
Ask students what they think a “black blizzard” is. Take a few answers then show students the videos Black Blizzard and Black Blizzards Rage Again Over the Southwest (see Videos). Have students discuss why the dust storms are referred to as “black blizzards.”
Show students the videos Pampa, Texas – Dust Blizzard Blots Out Sun; Buries Plants and Dalhart Dust Storm.
Show students the video $10,000,000 Snow Blanket Covers Texas Dust Bowl; have students discuss why the video is so named.
Show students the video Civilian Conservation Corps Fights Erosion.
Have students share some of the answers they have added to their charts, instructing other students to add anything they did not already write down. As students are sharing, discuss or answer any questions that may arise.
Have students work with a partner to select the two most important factors or points in each of the three sections of the T-chart. Have students share their answers with the class and discuss.
After students have viewed and discussed the videos documenting the destruction of crops in the Texas Dust Bowl, have them use their notes, textbooks, and other primary and secondary sources to create a series of three letters written from the perspective of an individual impacted by the situation.
Students can choose a child of a farmer, a farmer, a store owner, a migrant worker, etc.
Using their textbook, notes from the videos, books from the library, and Internet resources, have students research the situation at the beginning of the Dust Bowl droughts, during the worst part of the droughts, and the period of resolution at the end of the droughts.
Using the information from their research, have students take on the persona they have chosen and write three letters, one for each period researched, to a friend who lives on the East Coast and is, therefore, not experiencing the drought. (Remind students that this means they should incorporate significant background information into the first letter).
The letters should include 5-10 historical facts in each one and should explicitly address the impact of the Dust Bowl on the lives of everyday Texans focusing specifically on social, economic, migratory changes at each of the specified three points.
There should be distinct differences between the facts contained in each letter.
OPTIONAL: Have several students volunteer to share the contents of their letter at the end of class.
National Museum of American History
Sandler, Martin W. The Dust Bowl through the Lens: How Photography Revealed and Helped Remedy a National Disaster. New York: Walker Books for Young Readers, 2009.
Janke, Katelan. Survival in the Storm: The Dust Bowl Diary of Grace Edwards, Dalhart, Texas 1935. New York: Scholastic Inc., 2002.
Miller, Susan Martins. Rosa Takes a Chance: Mexican Immigrants in the Dust Bowl Years (1935). Sisters in Time, vol. 21. Ulrichsville, Ohio: Barbour Books, 2006.
CALIFORNIA: Stanley, Jerry. Children of the Dust Bowl: The True Story of the School at Weedpatch Camp. New York: Crown Books for Young Readers, 1993.
OKLAHOMA: Henderson, Caroline. Letters from the Dust Bowl. Wichita Falls, TX: Red River Books, 2003.
Egan, Timothy. The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl. New York: Mariner Books, 2006.
10C - Analyze the effects of physical and human geographic factors on major historical and contemporary events in the United States
11B - Describe the positive and negative consequences of human modification of the physical environment of the United States
29A - Differentiate between, locate, and use valid primary and secondary sources such as computer software, databases, media and news services, biographies, interviews, and artifacts to acquire information about the United States
29B - Analyze information by sequencing, categorizing, identifying cause-and-effect relationships, comparing, contrasting, finding the main idea, summarizing, making generalizations and predictions, and drawing inferences and conclusions
29D - Identify points of view from the historical context surrounding an event and the frame of reference which influenced the participants
29E - Support a point of view on a social studies issue or event