Agricultural Literacy Curriculum Matrix
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3 - 5
Students will examine the modern and historical importance of soil erosion in Utah and on the Great Plains during the Dust Bowl.
Interest Approach — Engagement
Activity 1: Soil Stories
- Dark Days activity sheets
Activity 2: What's Your Soil Story?
- Example of local erosion (e.g. pictures, site for a field trip, presentation from an expert; your local Soil Conservation District or Cooperative Extension offices may be helpful resources)
- Example Factors and Possibilities Chart
Essential Files (maps, charts, pictures, or documents)
conservation tillage: farming methods that reduce the intensity or frequency of tilling in order to maintain some ground cover throughout the year and disturb the soil as little as possible while still providing the conditions needed to grow a productive crop
drought: a long period of time in which there is very little or no rain
grazing: the eating of plants growing on open land by livestock
NRCS: the Natural Resources Conservation Service (the modern-day Soil Conservation Service) provides financial and technical assistance to help farmers implement conservation practices
Background Agricultural Connections
Interest Approach – Engagement
- Introduce the topic to your students by sharing the information in the Background Agricultural Connections. Use the video Dirt: Secrets of the Soil-Dust Bowl to show students scenes from the Dust Bowl and illustrations of soil erosion.
- Read excerpts from Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse to illustrate the connection between literature and history. Visit the sites listed in Essential Links at the end of this lesson for more resources to inspire students’ writing.
Activity 1: Soil Stories
- Divide the class into five groups (alternatively, this activity may be conducted individually).
- Provide each group with a different Dark Days activity sheet.
- Instruct groups to study and discuss the photographs. Explain that they are going to use the pictures to create a story. The attached photos show the following scenes:
- Dark Days—1: Black Sunday
- Dark Days—2: a farm in Oklahoma
- Dark Days—3: before and after scenes in Grantsville, Utah
- Dark Days—4: a “dust fence” in Grantsville
- Dark Days—5: a haystack full of dust in Grantsville
- Tell the students that they will have 5 minutes to develop a partial story line about their photograph. One group member should record the group’s thoughts, and the group should condense those thoughts into one sentence. Encourage students to write clear sentences that others will be able to understand.
- After five minutes, each group should write its final sentence in the space provided on the activity sheet and pass the sheet to another group.
- Each group should study the photograph on their new activity sheet, read the unfinished story line, and then develop the story one step further. A new recorder should condense the second plot development into another sentence. Instruct groups to choose a new recorder each time so everyone has the opportunity to assist in the writing process.
- When each photograph and story line reaches its last group, ask students to bring the stories to some type of closure.
- Have one person in each group stand up and read one of the final stories out loud.
- Discuss the pictures and the impact they had on the tone of the stories. Discuss the way the stories were completed. Were students happy with the twists that stories took as they passed from group to group?
Activity 2: What’s Your Soil Story?
- Find an illustrative, local example of soil erosion. Any example will work— it may be erosion from construction, agriculture, mining, etc. Your local Soil Conservation District office or your local Cooperative Extension office (contact information for Utah State University Extension county offices can be found at http://extension.usu.edu) may be able to help. Consider asking them to visit your class or to provide you with pictures of erosion that has occurred on a local site. You may also take local erosion pictures of your own or conduct the activity as a field trip.
- Divide the class into groups or use the same groups as in Activity 1.
- For the local erosion example given, ask each group to determine:
- How the soil erosion might have occurred
- What the soil texture might have been (if possible, bring in a sample from the area)
- How the erosion could have been prevented
- What, if anything, is being done to reduce erosion on the site
- One person in each group should record the group’s response for each question. This will be their report.
- Ask a spokesman from each group to share the group’s report on the site. Compare reports from the groups by constructing a chart of factors and possibilities. The four questions are the factors, and the possibilities are the groups’ answers or responses. See the Example Factors & Possibilities Chart.
- When all the possibilities are listed, ask students to vote individually on which possibility they think is most likely for each factor or question. They do not have to vote for their own group’s possibility.
- Once the votes are tallied, ask a local expert to elaborate on the questions or explain to your students what an expert told you about the given erosion site. Were the class conclusions correct?
- Discuss similarities and differences between the local erosion example and the erosion associated with the Dust Bowl. Is another Dust Bowl possible?
Concept Elaboration and Evaluation
After conducting these activities, review and summarize the following key concepts:
- Farmers rely on quality soil to grow the crops that provide our food.
- Farmers use conservation techniques to protect soil from erosion and other tragedies like the Dust Bowl.
- Erosion can take place on many levels of severity ranging from small to big.
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!
- Dust Bowl & Depression Era Online Resources
- Voices From the Dust Bowl
- How Teachers Can Make the Most of "The Dust Bowl"
Teach your students more about soil texturing with the lesson Types by Texture.
Suggested Companion Resources
- Children of the Dust Bowl: The True Story of the School at Weedpatch Camp (Book)
- Out of the Dust (Book)
- Survival in the Storm (Book)
- The Journal of C.J. Jackson, a Dust Bowl Migrant (Book)
- You Wouldn't Want to Live Without Dirt! (Book)
- Black Blizzard (Multimedia)
- Dirt: Secrets in the Soil (DVD) (Multimedia)
- Dust Bowl: CBS 1955 Documentary (Multimedia)
- FDR's Fireside Chat: Dust Bowl (Multimedia)
- Hugh Hammond Bennett: The Story of America's Private Lands Conservation video (Multimedia)
- Third-Grader Explains Nature's Role in Providing Clean Water (Multimedia)
- Rocks and Soils (UEN Sci-ber Text for 4th Grade) (Website)
- Soil Center (Website)
State Standards for Utah
Grade 5: Health/Nutrition Standard 7The students will understand the value of service and effective consumer practices.
Objective 1Participate in service learning that assists the preservation of natural resources. Meeting one or more of the following indicators: a) Identify natural resource protection needs. b) Examine situations where a person or group assists the protection of natural resources. c) Plan, implement, and report on a natural resource service project.
Grade 4: Science Standard 3Students will understand the basic properties of rocks, the processes involved in the formation of soils, and the needs of plants provided by soil.
Objective 2Explain how the processes of weathering and erosion change and move materials that become soil. Meeting one or more of the following indicators: a) Identify the processes of physical weathering that break down rocks at Earth's surface (i.e., water movement, freezing, plant growth, wind). b) Distinguish between weathering (i.e., wearing down and breaking of rock surfaces) and erosion (i.e., the movement of materials). c) Model erosion of Earth materials and collection of these materials as part of the process that leads to soil (e.g., water moving sand in a playground area and depositing this sand in another area). d) Investigate layers of soil in the local area and predict the sources of the sand and rocks in the soil.
Objective 3Observe the basic components of soil and relate the components to plant growth. Meeting one or more of the following indicators: a) Observe and list the components of soil (i.e., minerals, rocks, air, water, living and dead organisms) and distinguish between the living, nonliving, and once living components of soil. b) Diagram or model a soil profile showing topsoil, subsoil, and bedrock, and how the layers differ in composition. c) Relate the components of soils to the growth of plants in soil (e.g., mineral nutrients, water). d) Explain how plants may help control the erosion of soil. e) Research and investigate ways to provide mineral nutrients for plants to grow without soil (e.g., grow plants in wet towels, grow plants in wet gravel, grow plants in water).
Agricultural Literacy Outcomes
Culture, Society, Economy & Geography
- Understand the agricultural history of an individual’s specific community and/or state (T5.3-5.f)
Plants and Animals for Food, Fiber & Energy
- Explain how the availability of soil nutrients affects plant growth and development (T2.3-5.c)
- Understand the concept of land stewardship and identify ways farmers care for land, plants, and animals (T2.3-5.e)
Agriculture and the Environment
- Describe similarities and differences between managed and natural systems (e.g., wild forest and tree plantation; natural lake/ocean and fish farm) (T1.3-5.a)
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.4Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.
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.
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.