In this culminating activity you will be focusing your efforts on designing and presenting a digital story about the Dust Bowl. You may include photographs, sound recordings, eyewitness accounts, motion pictures, any primary source. You can use Powerpoint, Phot Story 3, iMovie, Movie Maker, or a Web Page as your scrapbook canvas.

Keep in mind copyright and property rights when using media from the Web. In general, photographs, sound recordings, and documents from the Library of Congress are in the public domain and may be used for educational purposes. Be sure to check the policy of all Websites before using their materials. You will share this digital story in class.

Historical Background

Dust Bowl During the Great Depression

This page is an excellent starting point for information about the dust bowl era. A concise overview is presented with photograph collages of migrant camps, the aftermath of dust storms, and life along the road. In addition questions are posed to help students think about song lyrics describing the plight of the migrant workers.

The New Deal Network

Study the Great Depression using the New Deal Network as an educational guide. Documents, photos, letters, and lesson plans for teachers are included in this extensive site sponsored by the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute and the Institute for Learning Technologies at Columbia University. Read letters written to Mrs. Roosevelt, recollections of Utah residents growing up in the 1930s, or view a photo-documentary of the impact of the Great Depression on Carbon Hill, Alabama.

National Historic Route 66

Drive off the beaten path and experience the sights of a bygone era. Lots of unique photographs and postcards dot the roadway from the Coral Court Motel to the round barn to the U-Drop-Inn. A short history about Route 66 from its hay day to its replacement by four-lane highways is an interesting side trip for the traveler. John Steinbeck proclaimed U. S. Highway 66 the "Mother Road."

Surviving the Dust Bowl

At this PBS site, read poignant eyewitness accounts that express the despair as crops withered and the dust turned into fiery storms. Listen to personal accounts and historical perspectives in extended interviews on topics such as homesteading, Black Sunday, and the environment. Rounding out the site is a map of the dust bowl, timeline, and teacher’s guide to use with the documentary film, “Surviving the Dust Bowl.”

Art

America from the Great Depression to World War II: Photographs from the FSA-OWI, 1935-1945

Photographs from the Farm Security Administration (FSA) and Office of War Information (OWI) form an extensive pictorial record of American life between 1935 and 1945. Roy E. Stryker headed the U.S. government photography project at The Library of Congress. The collection contains approximately 107,000 black-and-white photographic prints, 164,000 black-and-white film negatives, and 1,610 color transparencies. It is the only collection where you can view film sequences by looking at sprocket numbers. Using these "phonyfiche" you can piece together pictures like a photographic contact sheet. This is useful in finding related photographs that were not titled.

Documenting America

The job of the photographers hired by the Farm Security Administration was to inform the public about the poverty in this country and the increased need to help people. Walker Evans was the first photographer followed by Dorothea Lange who had been doing the same kind of work in California. There were 98 photographers over the course of the project. Documenting America provides insight into these powerful illustrations that depict the hard life of the 1930s. This online exhibit is a small sampling from the book, Documenting America edited by Carl Fleischhauer and Beverly Brannan, University of California Press, 1988.

A New Deal for the Arts

During the Great Depression, the federal government created a program that employed artists, musicians, writers, actors, photographers, and dancers. In this online exhibit, there are wonderful examples of paintings, posters, playbills, and other artifacts that represent the creativity and diverse styles of thousands of artists. Don’t miss “Years of Dust,” a resettlement poster by Ben Shahn or the “Jane Adams Memorial” paining by Mitchell Siporin.

Literature

The Great Depression and Children’s Books

Carol Hurst has compiled an annotated list of picture books and novels about the Great Depression that can be integrated into the language arts and social studies curriculum. Some of the titles are Year Down Under by Richard Peck, What You Know First by Patricia MacLachlan and illustrated by Barry Moser, and The Gardener by Sarah Stewart and illustrated by David Small. There are also links to related Websites and suggested activities.

Music

Bound for Glory: A tribute to Woody Guthrie

Wow! This virtual showstopper is a must for all Woody Guthrie fans. Guthrie’s story is told through a series of documents, quotations, photographs, letters, sheet music, and songs. Listen to him play the Railroad Blues on the harmonica, learn about his political activism, and his generosity for sharing music. For more information about the legendary figure, visit the Woody Guthrie and the Archive of American Folk Song at the Library of Congress.

Southern Mosaic

During the spring of 1939, John and Ruby Lomax traveled the southern highways in search of songs. Many of their stops were at prisons, places they deemed rich in blues, gospels, and ballads. Within this collection are recordings that represent the regional culture of nine states and a variety of genres. Listen to the lilting call of the Hiding-seek Song by Vera Hall, the foot-tapping fiddle tune, Turkey in the Straw, or the unusual lyrics of Ring Around the Rosy by a group of school children. The wealth of field notes and photographs enhance the material by providing details about the locations and individuals that help complete the story. In a footnote to the collection, it was at Angola Prison Louisiana that John Lomax and his son, Alan, discovered Huddie Ledbetter known as Leadbelly.

Voices from the Dust Bowl

A kaleidoscope of folk culture is preserved in this collection of square dance calls, traditional ballads, cowboy songs, and storytelling. Jack Bryant wrote and sang “Sunny Cal,” a reflection of the dust bowl experience, at the Firebaugh Camp in 1940. Another notable feature not to be missed is the Collection Connection, rich with supplemental materials and suggestions for analysis, interpretation, and comprehension of the subject matter.

Recipes

Great Depression Recipes

Have a feast in your classroom using recipes handed down from mother. Your menu might consist of Perfection Salad, Swiss Loaf, Poor Man's Bread, and for dessert, snow ice cream. This would make a wonderful culminating activity.

Lessons

Dust Bowl Days

The National Endowment for the Humanities and Thinkfinity present a comprehensive unit on the Dust Bowl. Since there are ready-made materials for teaching the lessons, links to supporting resources, and organized activities, teachers will find that preparing for this unit is more fun than work. Most of the lessons are based on primary sources such as contemporary song lyrics, photographs, and sound recordings of the 1930s.

Migrant Workers Through the Lens of Dorothea Lange

This lesson is targeted to grades 5-8 spotlighting the series of photographs taken by Dorothea Lange and collectively titled, “Migrant Mother.” Using Web resources, students study the prints and events from the 1930s that supply context to the work.

Then and Now Prices

Compare prices during the great depression to prices today. This is a great economics and math lesson for your students. Prices for the 1930s are provided so you do not have to search for that information. Fill in a table with current prices for a variety of items such as clothes, toys, and wages. Then, answer questions like how many weeks would it take to buy each of the items on the table of prices? Download classroom worksheets for easy printing.

 

Updated January 6, 2009
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