Dust Bowl Project Ideas

Instructor: Elisha Madison

Elisha is a writer, editor, and aspiring novelist. She has a Master's degree in Ancient Celtic History & Mythology and another Masters in Museum Studies.

The Dust Bowl was a critical time and place in American history that is often overshadowed by the corresponding events of the Great Depression. This lesson provides some ideas for student projects to get them engaged in this subject.

The Dust Bowl

The Dust Bowl, also known as the 'Dirty Thirties', was a period during the Great Depression that received its name from the dust storms that plagued the American Prairie in the 1930s. The poor soil conditions, drought, and displacement of families left everlasting marks on American history. The following set of projects is divided into group and individual to help students relate to and engage with this challenging time in US History.

Group Projects

These projects are meant to engage students in a group setting so that some of the responsibility is shared, allowing for larger and more detailed projects.

Oral Histories

Some of the most glaring portrayals of the Dust Bowl era are in the interviews and oral histories of the people who survived it. Have the students break into pairs, with one playing the interviewer that has to come up with a variety of questions. The other student needs to be the one who answers the questions like they were there during that decade. Each student needs to support their questions and answers with evidence from the research on the time period. Once they have their interview down pat, they need to record their interview like an oral history. This can be done with a cell phone or a hand recorder. This engages students by not only making them research the events, but also the people.

Timeline

This duration of the Dust Bowl and Great Depression make them perfect for a timeline project. Have the students break up into enough groups that each takes one year during the decade-long period of the Dust Bowl. Then provide each group with a poster board to put the year in bold in the center. Surrounding the year, the students can place images, objects, and newspaper articles or clippings to describe what happened that year. For example, students can glue on a piece of cotton to represent 1934 US Textile Workers Strike, and pictures of pigs to note the 1933 mass-slaughtering of pigs to help modify prices. This makes the timeline artistic and memorable for students.

Movie Time

Have students break into groups of four or five. Each group should make a movie about an event during the Dust Bowl. For example, the strikes of the migrant workers in California, or traveling on Route 66 out of Oklahoma. The students just need to make sure it isn't an identical copy to scenes from The Grapes of Wrath. They need to create new images and stories. This type of project is creative and makes sure the students have to research the Dust Bowl in-depth to make a film that accurately depicts this time.

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