Students view various photographs from the Dust Bowl crisis, and two more recent refugee crises. They then watch a video to learn about the hardships the Dust Bowl created, in order to better understand the circumstances that lead people to leave their homes behind and head to uncertain destinations.
This lesson is part of "Great States: Iowa | Unit 7: Twentieth Century Iowa." In this unit, students will examine how major events of the 20th century impacted the people of Iowa.
E.SS.3.12: Use historical examples to describe how scarcity requires a person to make choices.
FL.SS.3.16: Describe how people take risks to improve their family income through education, career changes and moving to new places.
SS.3.5/4.4: Construct responses to compelling questions using reasoning, examples, and relevant details.
- Photo: Migrant Family | The Great Depression | U.S. History
- Photo: Rwandan Refugees | Remembering the Rwandan Genocide
- Photo: Syrian refugee crisis | Conflicts: Syria
- Video: Documenting the Dust Bowl
- An interactive whiteboard, projector, or another type of screen to show media to the class
- Loose-leaf paper
Ask students to consider why people sometimes leave their homes and move to new places without knowing if they will find work, acceptance, or a home at their destination. Take responses.
Show the three photographs one at a time. For each photograph, indicate the date and location of the photograph, and ask students to examine what they see in the image carefully. What assumptions can they make about the living conditions depicted in the image? What might the expressions or body language of the people in the photograph convey?
Migrant Family | The Great Depression | U.S. History, the 1930s; a roadside camp in Blythe, California, photograph by Dorothea Lange
Rwandan Refugees | Remembering the Rwandan Genocide, 1994, Goma, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, photograph by Tom Stoddart
Syrian refugee crisis | Conflicts: Syria, 2013, camp for displaced people, Qatma, Syria
Briefly explain that the Rwandan refugees had fled genocide in their home country, and that the Syrian refugees had escaped from a war zone. Then, indicate that people in Iowa also experienced leaving their homes in large numbers, though for very different reasons.
Explain that the Great Depression and Dust Bowl crisis of the 1930s caused much turmoil for the agriculture-dependent Iowa economy. Show the video, Documenting the Dust Bowl [5:44]. Instruct students to focus on the photographs of families to try to better understand the experience of these economic and environmental refugees.
Ask students to reconsider their answers to the compelling question: “Do you have any new insights into why people might flee and what hardships they may encounter”?
To conclude the lesson, have students list losses experienced by all refugees, whether fleeing war, genocide, famine, drought, or other natural and man-made disasters. [Possible answers include: loss of home and possessions; loss of livelihood; disconnection from friends, neighbors, and family; loss of time in school, etc.]