Activities and Lesson Plans
"The weather doesn’t succumb to wants and wishes. It fights you with total disregard. It doesn’t care if you are young or old, rich or poor, or sick. It is, by far, the vilest villain I could dream up. It has no conscious. The landscape becomes the question as to whether or not the children can survive.” S. L. Dwyer
Educational introduction by Susan Weintrob
As a retired English teacher, college English instructor and principal, for more than 25 years, I have taught students and then supported teachers as they brought literature and history to their students.
Once, when reading a book chapter to a class, a student asked to see the pictures. I showed her there were no illustrations. “That’s not true! I saw on your face that you saw pictures when you read to us!” Such a wonderful complement.
One goal of reading and learning is to learn to mentally see these pictures from literature or history, to defy time and space and place yourself into the book you are reading or the historical era you are learning. Educators guide students to become good readers, to guide them into the book, to live the life of another, to understand more about other situations, times and ultimately, ourselves.
This is what Sharon Dwyer does. She pulls us into the lives of Sammy and Birdie, orphans during the worst of the Dust Bowl in Western Oklahoma. With Sammy and Birdie, we are angry, hungry, scared and, at moments, hopeful. The author opens the door, inviting her readers to enter an era that is stark, dangerous and compelling.
In Dirt, Dwyer reveals, “It was a time where the true strength and grit of Americans was tested. I discovered over time that the story I created for Sammy had actually happened more than we realize. The years this country spent clawing our way out of the Great Depression were difficult, but also proved what we are made of as Americans.”
Dirt, well written and documented, gives students many opportunities to learn a multitude of topics from the Dust Bowl, poverty, food insecurity, isolation, family, land conservation and community.
Dirt can be taught in English, history, science or geography classes, in museum programs or book clubs, in public, charter, private or home schools.
The guiding questions and activities that I developed with the author are an aid to educators and readers, providing a complete program with lesson plans, discussion topics and projects for young adult readers, Middle School and High School students and adults.
Beyond statistics and dates, Dirt is a superb example of historical literature, developing compelling glimpses into other lives and another era, helping us navigate issues in our own lives and communities, expanding our vision and depth of understanding.
The Great Dust Bowl became one of the most historic moments in the survival of the mid-west. Become immersed in those torturous years as our young generation learns the hardships and the strength of the American people.
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