The Dust Bowl: Lesson for High School History

The Dust Bowl: Lesson for High School History
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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.


  • Farmer and his sons in a dust storm. Photo taken April, 1936 by Rothstein, Arthur, 1915-1985, photographer. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

This post is part of the series: The Great Depression

This unit on the Great Depression is intended for high school students. The lesson plans are designed for a block schedule that has 88 minutes allotted for each class. Modifying them to fit a traditional, shorter period should not be a problem.

  1. Lesson 1: The Causes, the Crash, and the Fallout
  2. Lesson 2: The Vicious Cycle, the Bonus Army and the Bank Holiday
  3. Lesson 3: The New Deal
  4. Lesson 4: The Dust Bowl
  5. Lesson 5: The Court-Packing Plan and the GM Sit-Down Strike