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Lesson 4: The Dust Bowl

By Andrew Otocka

The Dust Bowl is one of the most iconic events of the Great Depression. This lesson explores the event, using different media to bring it to life for students.

This lesson uses online resources to put students "in the shoes" of farmers who tried to survive the Dust Bowl on the southern plains during the Great Depression.

Note: Before teaching this lesson sign your class up for computer time in a lab or your school library, wherever the most internet-capable computers are available.

Bell Activity: Have students answer the question "What was the New Deal?" in their journals.

The Dust Bowl

When you have your class in front of their computers, direct them to the following URL:

Have them read the first section of John Steinbeck's novel The Grapes of Wrath. Discuss what they have read.

Then, have students write the next section of Grapes on their own. What would the farm families do next? Students should each write at least half of a page, preferably more, and be ready to talk about their ideas. After everyone has finished writing, discuss what the options were.

Online Film: Send students to this URL:

Watch as much of the American Experience film "Surviving the Dust Bowl" as you feel is useful. Compare what students came up with in terms of surviving with what natives of the Dust Bowl actually did. Tie the film into the New Deal by focusing on the segment (about 2/3rds of the way through) that deals with Hugh Hammond Bennett and federal government intervention.