5 Fascinating Resources About the Dust Bowl

Adee Braun

We've put together some wonderful resources and extension activities for you and your students to delve into after they read and discuss "Black Sunday," Lauren Tarshis's riveting article in the March 2017 issue of Scope about the dust storms that ravaged the American Southern Plains during the 1930s. Enjoy!


Here are five fascinating resources to keep your students’ learning going:


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To Read: a timeline of the Dust Bowl, which includes information about how the government responded to the dust storms and what was done to repair the land after Black Sunday

To Do: Using text evidence from the timeline and from the Scope article "Black Sunday," have students write a problem-solution essay about the causes of Black Sunday and the solutions that were implemented.



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To Watch: a video of Catherine Hattrup remembering life during the Dust Bowl years

To Do: Have students create an original play with Catherine Hattrup as the main character. The play should have a full plot, characters, narrators, and stage directions, and should draw on information from the video, the Scope article "Black Sunday," and one additional source of students' choosing. TIP: Use any Scope drama as a model text.  



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To View: a photo gallery and excerpts from the memoir of Lawrence Svobida, a wheat farmer from the time

To Do: Hold a class discussion about the relationship between humans and the environment. What responsibility do humans have towards the environment? How can humans balance economic goals while being mindful of the environment? 



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To Listen and Read: two songs by Woody Guthrie: "So Long, It's Been Good to Know Yuh" (read the lyrics here) and "Dust Storm Disaster" (read the lyrics here)

To Do: Woody Guthrie, the American folk singer, wrote several songs about the Dust Bowlin fact, his nickname was "Dust Bowl Troubadour." Hold a class discussion about the two songs students just heard, having students consider the themes of devastation and fear in Guthrie's songs as well as the descriptive details that he weaves into his lyrics. Then have students write their own song lyrics or poem about Black Sunday using details from the Scope article and one additional source, such as the photo gallery or the video of Catherine Hattrup.





Environmental disaster research project

Divide the class into small groups and assign each group a different human-caused environmental disaster to research. After each group has completed its research, have students present their findings to the class. As a class, discuss what these environmental disasters can teach us and why it is important to study them.

Topics that students might explore include:

  • The Great Peshtigo Fire (check out Scope's article "The Blood-Red Night")
  • The Killer Smog of 1952 (check out Scope’s article “Killer Smog”)
  • The BP oil spill
  • Love Canal disaster
  • The Elk River chemical spill
  • A local environmental issue, such as a nearby superfund site
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