Traveling the Dust Bowl in the School Library

Connection: Classroom Curriculum and School Library Standards

School librarians wear many hats; teacher, keeper of the books, tech expert, collaborator, program planner, host of events and programs, just to mention a few.

I recently planned, organized, and hosted “Traveling the Dust Bowl in the School Library” for fifth-grade students. These students were reading Out of the Dust by Karen Heese. When students entered the school library for their weekly class I greeted them in my old jean overalls, flannel shirt, and handkerchief tied around my neck. I explained that we were about to travel back in time to the Dust Bowl. I showed a short three minute video from the FDR Presidential Library and Museum called “FDR and the Dust Bowl.” This video gives a brief but concise overview of location and causes. After the video I seated each small group of students at the seven stations (listed below). I explained that the groups would discuss the topic of the table, reflect on the effect of the Dust Bowl at each station, write down their group’s reflection, and choose whether the “artifacts” (photos, film, music, recordings, recipes) at the table were primary or secondary sources. 

I had tables/stations set-up with tablecloths, table placards, displays, “artifacts”, and supplies for the reflection.


Station 1: Fireside Chats with FDR

At station 1, I had a Chromebook with an audio splitter and headphones with a video of Franklin D. Roosevelt giving one of his famous fireside chats. I used the video titled “FDR: Fireside Chat–The Dust Bowl” from the Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia.

Station 2: Food during the Dust Bowl

I displayed a menu of what might be eaten in the homes of those living in the areas affected. Students discussed the displays and how the Dust Bowl had affected the foods eaten during that time and place.

Station 3: Dust Bowl Blues

I had an iPad with an audio splitter and headphones at this station. I used my Hoopla account through my public library to download several songs from the Woody Guthrie album, “Dust Bowl Ballads.”

Station 4: Daily Life

This station had an album of copyright friendly photos, maps, letters, and news articles that I found in a variety of places.

Station 5: Film from the Dust Bowl

I had a Chromebook with an audio splitter and headphones. The Chromebook displayed PBS’s The Dust Bowl: A Film by Ken Burns, with the “Watch Videos” tab opened.

Station 6: Letters from the Dust Bowl

Students used a copy of a letter that had been written by a person that lived in McCracken, Kansas, during the Dust Bowl. Students then chose one of the discussion questions to answer.

Station 7: Books about the Dust Bowl

At this station I had several nonfiction books about the Dust Bowl that were already in the library. Students skimmed these books and used text features to compare with one another the content within the books.

I walked around the library observing and talking with students about what it must’ve been like to live during the Dust Bowl. Students were very engaged during the entire rotation.

Useful Resources:

The Library of Congress, The Dust Bowl:

PBS’s The Dust Bowl: A Film by Ken Burns:

Hoopla, Woody Guthrie “The Dust Bowl Ballad”: or you may access via your public library

Adventures of Cyberbee, a website for teachers:

Primary Source letter from a Dust Bowl Survivor:

My Wakelet Collection on the Dust Bowl:



Author: Ronda Hughes

Ronda Hughes is a Middle School Library Media Specialist in Hot Springs, Arkansas. She has 21 years experience in public education as: a Physical Education teacher, 5th grade Literacy teacher and a library media specialist. Hughes has served as Tri-Lakes Reading Council President, Arkansas Reading Association Intellectual Chair, Alpha Delta Kappa Vice President, and Arkansas Association of Instructional Media Board Member. She has been on numerous committees such as; Arkansas Department of Education K-8 Computer Science Standards and Library Media Standards, Garland County READS, Arkansas Diamond Book Award Committee, Charlie May Simon Book Award Committee, just to name a few.

Categories: Blog Topics, Community/Teacher Collaboration, Student Engagement/ Teaching Models, Technology

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