National Agricultural Literacy Curriculum Matrix
Growing a Nation: From Defeat to Victory
9 - 12
Students will engage with the Growing a Nation timeline to explore the significant historical and agricultural events and inventions from American history during the years 1930-1949. Students will examine the cause and impact of the Dust Bowl, recognize how the Dust Bowl led to the Great Depression, and describe the government's response to assist farmers in the 1930s.
Activity 1: Event Exploration
- Growing a Nation timeline and necessary projection equipment or computer lab
- Demonstration of Learning Strategies
Activity 2: Dust Bowl Impact
Activity 3: Ranch Starter Kit
- Jiffy 7 peat pellet pots,* 1 per student
- Plastic cups, 1 per student
- Permanent markers, 1 per group
- Grass seed,* 2-3 teaspoons per group
- Plastic spoons
- Trail activity sheets
*These items are included in the Ranch Starter Kit, which is available for purchase from agclassroomstore.com.
Essential Files (maps, charts, pictures, or documents)
Works Progress Administration (WPA): WPA was the largest and most ambitious American New Deal agency, employing millions of unemployed people (mostly unskilled men) to carry out public works projects, including the construction of public buildings and roads
conservation: protection of animals, plants, and natural resources; the careful use of natural resources (such as trees, oil, etc.) to prevent them from being lost or wasted
grazing: grassland suitable for foraging animals
Did you know? (Ag Facts)
- Minerals are the primary component of soils. These minerals are from weathered rock, called parent material.
- Soils can come in black, red, yellow, white, brown, and gray.
- It can take 1,000 years to form one inch of topsoil. If people grew that slowly it would take 80,000 years to grow a basketball player.
Background Agricultural Connections
Interest Approach – Engagement
- Use the following questions to hold a class discussion to assess your students' prior knowledge:
- What was the cause of the Dust Bowl?
- How did the Dust Bowl and agriculture contribute to The Great Depression?
- How did the Dust Bowl impact the environment?
- What was government's response to help farmers during the 1930s?
- What ended The Great Depression?
- After the discussion, inform your students that they will be learning the answers to these questions throughout this lesson.
Activity 1: Event Exploration
- Using a projector, mobile devices, or computer lab, review the Growing a Nation: From Defeat to Victory section of the multimedia timeline. The Growing a Nation events and sub-events are designed to be adaptable to a variety of teaching strategies. Each Main Event contains Sub-events that explore American history for a greater understanding of the time period or historical cause and effect relationships. The sub-event tiles ask higher order questions to not only expand student knowledge, but also to increase their comprehension to the level of application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation.
- After students view selected events and sub-events, assign or allow students (or student pairs) to choose a sub-event tile. Students can work off of a computer or mobile device or take a screenshot of the selected sub-event and print.
- Ask the students to be prepared to answer the questions on their tile by either using the Think, Pair, Share strategy or by using one of the attached Demonstration of Learning Strategies. You may want to choose a particular strategy to use with the entire class or cut the strategies into strips and ask each student to pick one or two. If the student or group of students is allowed to pick two, ask them to choose the learning strategy they prefer and put the other one back. Keep in mind that some Demonstration of Learning Strategies will be a better fit for some of the event topics than others and that some take more time than others. Some strategies may need to be grouped depending on the available time.
Activity 2: Dust Bowl Impact
The ballads of Woody Guthrie, the novels of John Steinbeck, and the WPA photographs of artists such as Dorothea Lange have embedded images of the Dust Bowl in the American consciousness. Introduce this dramatic era in our nation’s history to today’s students through photographs, songs, and interviews with people who lived through the Dust Bowl. Help your students understand the problems Americans were facing during the Great Depression. Students learn from their textbooks what caused the Dust Bowl and where the Dust Bowl occurred, but to better understand the impact of this environmental disaster, students need to use a variety of primary source documents from this time period. This activity uses the resources from the American Experience PBS website Surviving the Dust Bowl. The resources on the site allow students to explore the Dust Bowl through photographs, songs (lyrics), interviews, and other archival documents from the Dust Bowl era.
- Assign each student to listen to or read one of the interview transcripts from J.R. Davison, Imogene Glover, or Melt White on the PBS Surviving the Dust Bowl website. From the Media Analysis activity sheets, each student should complete either the "Sound Recording" (if they listen to the interview) or the "Written Document" (if they read the transcript) analysis pages.
- In addition, the “Eyewitness Account” and primary resource of Lawrence Svobida could be used with the "Written Document" analysis pages.
- As a class, listen to or view one or more of the following radio broadcasts or films linked in the Growing a Nation timeline. (These are engaging, dramatic primary sources. You may want to explain to the students that radio was the state-of-the-art media of the time!) From the Media Analysis activity sheets, students should complete the "Sound Recording" or "Motion Picture" analysis pages or note the three most significant concepts they hear. Discuss the concepts and issues raised in each radio program. The audio and movie files can be downloaded or streamed by searching the title on the Growing a Nation timeline.
- Fireside Chat 8, The Drought and The Dust Bowl, 1936 (2:03 minutes)
- Westward Movement and Resettlement, 1936 (15:16 minutes)
- What Price America? Taylor Grazing Act, 1939 (30:11 minutes)
- Food to Win the War, circa 1941 (4:58 minutes)
Activity 3: Ranch Starter Kit
- Read the "Rangelands" section of the Background Agricultural Connections portion of this lesson to review the information concerning rangelands, grazing, and the nature of grass.
- Explain to the students that they will be starting their own "ranch" with a small planting of grass.
- Provide each student with a peat pellet and a plastic cup to hold it. Make available permanent markers, bowls of grass seed, plastic spoons, and water.
- Ask the students to write their name on their cup, place their peat pellet into their cup (make sure the end with the small hole faces up), and fill the cup half full with water. It takes about 15 minutes for the peat pellet to hydrate and expand into a pot in which seeds can be planted. While the peat pellet is hydrating, have students work on one of the Trail activity sheets. Note: Some of the "Trail" activity sheets will be most pertinent to Utah students, but the majority are generic and will be relevant to students in any state.
- When the students finish the Trail activity, the water should be absorbed and the peat pellet completely hydrated. Use a pencil to loosen the top 1/4 inch of peat moss.
- Evenly spread 1/2 teaspoon of seeds on the top of the peat pot. Press the seeds down gently with your thumb.
- Once the seeds germinate (in about 1 week), keep the peat pots moist, and allow the grass to grow until it has reached 2-3 inches in height.
- Ask the students to use scissors to cut half of the grass blades short (1 inch) above the soil to simulate a cow grazing.
- They should clip another quarter of the grass down to the crown—where the blades meet the roots; this part of the blade is white in color. To stimulate overgrazing, ask the students to clip this quarter area to the crown every couple of days.
- The last quarter section of the grass should remain unclipped.
- Observe the grass for a few weeks and then make comparisons. What are the results of the overgrazed, grazed, and ungrazed grasses? Ask the students how their grazing experiment compares to mowing their grass.
Concept Elaboration and Evaluation
After conducting these activities, review and summarize the following key concepts:
- The Dust Bowl had a deep impact on agriculture and the overall economy.
- The Dust Bowl changed the way farmers managed their land. Widespread use of conservation management practices began to be used to prevent future disasters.
- Agricultural land that is suitable to grow crops for food and fiber is a valuable resource.
We welcome your feedback! Please take a minute to tell us how to make this lesson better or to give us a few gold stars!
Listen to an interview with Mrs. Flora Robertson about dust storms in Oklahoma and complete the "Sound Recording" analysis page from the Media Analysis activity sheets.
Visit the website PBS American Experience and then select two historical figures or two events or one historical figure and one event and create a Venn diagram after you read your selection. The Venn diagram should note each point of view or event content that the people or event do not have in common on the outside of the circles. Do the viewpoints or events have anything in common? If so, place these commonalities in the place where the circles overlap. Present your historical character or event and your diagram to the class.
Using the timeline from PBS American Experience, note what the government did to help people during the Dust Bowl. Which two or three do you think had the most impact?
Suggested Companion Resources
- Children of the Dust Bowl: The True Story of the School at Weedpatch Camp (Book)
- Dust Bowl Diary (Book)
- Survival in the Storm (Book)
- The Grapes of Wrath (Book)
- The Great American Dust Bowl (Book)
- Ranch Starter Kit (Kit)
- Black Blizzard (Multimedia)
- Creamed, Canned and Frozen: How the Great Depression Revamped U.S. Diets (Multimedia)
- Dust Bowl: CBS 1955 Documentary (Multimedia)
- Growing a Nation Multimedia Timeline (Multimedia)
- Hugh Hammond Bennett: The Story of America's Private Lands Conservation video (Multimedia)
- Living Soil Film (Multimedia)
- Agricultural News (Website)
- Tractor Timeline- A History of Tractors (Website)
Agricultural Literacy Outcomes
Agriculture and the Environment
- Describe resource and conservation management practices used in agricultural systems (e.g., riparian management, rotational grazing, no till farming, crop and variety selection, wildlife management, timber harvesting techniques) (T1.9-12.b)
- Discuss the value of agricultural land (T1.9-12.d)
Culture, Society, Economy & Geography
- Evaluate and discuss the impact of major agricultural events and agricultural inventions that influenced world and U.S. history (T5.9-12.g)
Science, Technology, Engineering & Math
- Describe how agricultural practices have contributed to changes in societies and environments over time (T4.9-12.b)
Education Content Standards
9-12 Geography Standard 14: How human actions modify the physical environment.
Objective 1Human modifications of the physical environment can have significant global impacts.
Objective 2The use the technology can have both intended and unintended impacts on the physical environment that may be positive or negative.
Objective 3People can either mitigate and/or adapt to the consequences of human modifications of the physical environment.
9-12 Geography Standard 15: How physical systems affect human systems.
Objective 1Depending on the choice of human activities, the characteristics of the physical environment can be viewed as both opportunities and constraints.
Objective 2Human perceive and react to environmental hazards in different ways.
Objective 3Societies use a variety of strategies to adapt to changes in the physical environment.
9-12 Geography Standard 16: The changes that occur in the meaning, use, distribution, and importance of resources.
Objective 1The meaning and use of resources change over time.
Objective 3Policies and programs that promote the sustainable use and management of resources impact people and the environment.
9-12 Geography Standard 17: How to apply geography to interpret the past.
Objective 1Geographic contexts (the human and physical characteristics of places and environments) can explain the connections between sequences of historical events.
Objective 2The causes and processes of change in the geographic characteristics and spatial organization of places, regions, and environments over time.
5-12 History Era 8 Standard 1B: American life changed during the 1930s.
Objective 1Explain the effects of the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl on American farm owners, tenants, and sharecroppers.
Objective 3Analyze the impact of the Great Depression on the American family and on ethnic and racial minorities.
5-12 History Era 8 Standard 2A: The New Deal and the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Objective 3Contrast the first and second New Deals and evaluate the success and failures of the relief, recovery, and reform measures associated with each.
Objective 6Explain renewed efforts to protect the environment during the Great Depression and evaluate their success in places such as the Dust Bowl and the Tennessee Valley.
NCSS 2: Time, Continuity, and Change
Objective 5The impact across time and place of key historical forces, such as nationalism, imperialism, globalization, leadership, revolution, wars, concepts of rights and responsibilities, and religion.
Objective 6Different interpretations of the influences of social, geographic, economic, and cultural factors on the history of local areas, states, nations, and the world.
Objective 7The contributions of philosophies, ideologies, individuals, institutions, and key events and turning points in shaping history.
Objective 8The importance of knowledge of the past to an understanding of the present and to informed decision-making about the future.
NCSS 3: People, Places, and Environments
Objective 2Concepts such as: location, physical and human characteristics of national and global regions in the past and present, and the interactions of humans with the environment.
Objective 3Consequences of changes in regional and global physical systems, such as seasons, climate, and weather, and the water cycle.
Objective 4The causes and impact of resource management, as reflected in land use, settlement patterns, and ecosystem changes.
Objective 6The social and economic effects of environmental changes and crises resulting from phenomena such as floods, storms, and drought.
Objective 7Factors that contribute to cooperation and conflict among peoples of the nation and world, including language, religion, and political beliefs.
Objective 8The use of a variety of maps, globes, graphic representations, and geospatial technologies to help investigate spatial relations, resources and population density and distribution, and changes in the phenomena over time.
NCSS 8: Science, Technology, and Society
Objective 2Science and technology have had both positive and negative impacts upon individuals, societies, and the environment in the past and present.
Objective 4Consequences of science and technology for individuals and societies.
Objective 5Decisions regarding the uses and consequences of science and technology are often complex because of the need to choose between or reconcile different viewpoints.
Objective 11That achievements in science and technology are increasing at a rapid pace and can have both planned and unanticipated consequences.
Common Core Connections
Reading: Anchor Standards
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.1Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.2Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.3Analyze how and why individuals, events, or ideas develop and interact over the course of a text.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.7Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.
Speaking and Listening: Anchor Standards
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.1Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.2Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.3Evaluate a speaker’s point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric.