Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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Disaster and Government Response

The Great Depression, the Dust Bowl, and the New Deal

Belongings from Home

Learning Targets

  • I can understand the difficulties facing displaced farmers who had to leave most of their possessions, communities, and way of life behind when they were forced to leave their homes.
  • I can analyze photographs and begin to draw conclusions about what items were saved and what items were left when farm-working families had to relocate.
  • By identifying which aspects of home were re-created/preserved after being displaced, I can understand what the people valued.

Consider the following photographs of relocated farmers who had to leave much of their old home and life behind when they were moved to a new farm area. Many did not leave by choice, but the drought and failed crops forced them to move away in hopes of more fertile lands. Most had to travel across many of the United States, if not all of the prairie lands, to find any work at all.

Begin the Activity

The people in these photographs were left with the difficult challenge of deciding what aspects of their home they would take with them and what aspects they would leave behind. Make copies of photographs 8006, 8013, 8032, 8043, 8044, and 8065, or have them ready to display on a monitor. Students can be in groups looking at all of the six photographs at the same time, or they can be in six groups looking at each photograph one at a time, and rotating until each group has had time with each image. The purpose is to allow students to spend time examining each image and answer questions such as:

  • What items do you see in the photographs?
  • What is missing or left behind?
  • What emotion(s) do you feel from this photograph?

With a partner, have students talk through their thoughts about the following scenario:

Imagine that you had to pack up your personal belongings into a minivan. The van also has to hold your family. You have too little space for all of your belongings. What would you do? How would you begin the process of selecting what to take? List the 10 most important items that you want to take. How similar or different do you think this list is from what a parent might select? What items would you have on a “only if space is available” list?

This was a very real scenario in the 1930s. Students should know that—on top of limited space—farmers were not often welcomed to come to a new place because they were seen as causing more competition for the already scarce resources available.

Grade Level

High School


Earth and Space Science
English Language Arts
U.S. History


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Photographs in This Activity

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