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McREL Standards Activity

Dust Bowl Depression

Purpose:As a result of this activity, students will be able to demonstrate the ability to explain the social impact of the Dust Bowl and Great Depression on farm families.
Related Standard & Benchmarks:
United States History
 Standard 23.Understands the causes of the Great Depression and how it affected American society
   Level III [Grade 7-8]
   Benchmark 2. Understands the social and economic impact of the Great Depression (e.g., the impact of the depression on industry and workers; the response of local and state officials in combating the resulting economic and social crises; the effects of the depression on American families and on ethnic and racial minorities; the effect on gender roles; the victimization of African Americans and white sharecroppers)
 Standard 2.Uses acting skills
   Level III [Grade 5-8]
   Benchmark 4. Interacts as an invented character in improvised and scripted scenes
Student Product:Role play a detective or journalist who is searching for the whereabouts of a Depression era family that moved away. Or merely have the journalist interview the family. Conclude with discussion or writing excercise
Material & Resources:Other resources: Novel: John Steinbeck, "The Grapes of Wrath" Films: Pare Lorentz, "The Plow that Broke the Plains"; "The Grapes of Wrath"
Teacher's Note:No supplementary notes for this activity.
The teacher presents students with a real or fictitious example of a Depression-era family forced to leave their farm in the Great Plains. Students research the environmental and social impacts of the Great Depression to understand the factors that forced the family off their land. The assignment could be presented as solving a "mystery" (i.e., Why did the Brown family move to California?) After conducting research on the impact of the Great Depression, assign students various roles to act out. There are two options. 1. Have the students act out the lives of a Depression era family preparing to leave their home in the Dust Bowl for opportunity elsewhere. They can describe to an investigative journalist why they are leaving and what they hope to find. 2. The "mystery" idea can be used by having a detective or journalist investigate the whereabouts of the family. The detective may ask questions of people who knew the family (neighbors, etc) in order to find out what happened to them. Assign as many roles as needed. The interview subjects should provide obvious and/or underlying reasons why the family left their land during the Dust Bowl. Conclude with a group discussion or writing excercise.