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        North Dakota | Activity 6.1: Homesteader Migration and Its Challenges

        Students watch a video about challenges that homesteaders have faced in North Dakota and the Great Plains. Students answer the question, “How did the Homestead Act and the railroad grants influence migration to North Dakota?”

        Lesson Summary

        Students watch a video about challenges that homesteaders have faced in North Dakota and the Great Plains. Students answer the question, “How did the Homestead Act and the railroad grants influence migration to North Dakota?”

        This lesson is part of "Great States | North Dakota | Unit 6: Agriculture and Economy" where students will learn about the major resources and enterprises that form the basis of North Dakota’s economy.

        Time Allotment

        10 minutes

        Learning Objectives

        Standards: 

        4.5.4: Explain how the physical environment (e.g., rainfall, climate, natural hazards) affects human activity in North Dakota. 

        4.2.9: Explain reasons for settlement in North Dakota (e.g., railroads, Bonanza farms, Homestead Act) 

        Supplies

        Directions

        1. Tell students they will be watching a short video about some of the families who settled in the prairies as part of the Homestead Act of 1862 and their experiences adapting to the climate.
        2. Provide students with the Homesteader Challenges handout. Instruct them to take notes on the challenges of the homestead families.
        3. Play the video, Homesteading - Weather on the Plains [4:40].
        4. Have students answer the questions on the handout.

        Answer Key

        1. It was marketed as temperate, with mild winters and plenty of rainfall. [0:42]
        2. The climate actually had very cold winters, freezing temperatures, and drought.
        3. Challenges include: [Listed throughout]
          1. Freezing temperatures
          2. Wildfires
          3. Starvation
          4. Drought
          5. Hail
          6. Disease
          7. Multiple years of failed crops

        Activity 1 (Advanced 8th Grade): Homesteader Migration and Its Challenges

        Lesson Summary

        Watch a video about homesteader families in North Dakota. Students consider the different countries from which people migrated to the Plains states during the Homesteading era.

        Learning Objectives

        Standards: 

        8.5.2: Describe the characteristics, distribution, and effects of human migration within the United States during different time periods (e.g., Westward Expansion, post Civil War, Industrialization, urbanization).

        Time Allotment

        10 minutes

        Supplies

        Directions

        1. Tell students they will be watching a short video about some of the families who settled in the prairies as part of the Homestead Act of 1862. Over 300,000 families poured onto the prairies to claim their piece of land.
        2. Provide students with the Homesteader Migration handout. Have students note the different people who migrated to the Plains states during the Homesteading era.
        3. Play the video, Homesteading - Weather on the Plains [4:40].
        4. After the video, explain that the first narrator, Julia Gage Carpenter, was the sister-in-law of L. Frank Baum, who went on to write the classic The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Baum based parts of the story on Carpenter’s life as a homesteader.
        5. Have students complete the handout questions based on the notes they took. Then, reconvene and discuss the answers as well as the question: “How did homesteading influence the culture of North Dakota or United States?”

        Answer Key

        Handout answers:

        1. Cold, milk and water froze indoors, can see her breath [0:02]
        2. Ireland, Minnesota [2:10]
        3. Loss of child, loss of sister, diphtheria, five bad crop years [3:35]
        4. Land, adventure, profit, visions of a prosperous future
        5. External factors: weather, lack of food, drought, Great Depression, low commodity prices

        Discussion question:

        Homesteaders came from everywhere—not only the eastern United States but other countries as well. The people from all of these different places bring their own customs and traditions, contributing to the melting pot culture of the United States.

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