Mission US: Up from the Dust
Mission US: “Up from the Dust” is the newest simulation from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and WNET with a focus on saving the Texas family farm during the Dust Bowl.
The mission provides young people with an experiential understanding of the enormous hardships facing Americans during the late 1920s and early 1930s, as they struggled against the joint catastrophes of the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression. The game is divided into five parts, with a prologue offering background information and an epilogue extending the story of the main characters. A new feature in Mission 5 is a tool for gathering and organizing historical evidence to support explanatory and argumentative writing aligned to the mission’s learning goals.
Students assume the roles of Frank and Ginny Dunn, twins growing up on a wheat farm in the Texas Panhandle. The simulation begins in summer 1929, as the Dunn family is preparing to plant their wheat crop. During the 1929-1930 growing season, the stock market crashes and wheat prices begin a precipitous fall. Later, a drought adds to their problems. Over the next few years, the Dunns witness how the Great Depression affects not only their neighbors in Texas, but people all across the United States. They also experience how people came together, both through charity and government programs, to get through this challenging period in American history.
Like other Mission US simulations, students must make decisions and solve problems that encourage deep and critical thinking while reading and analyzing primary source evidence. The Mission 5 Educator’s Guide provides a wealth of tools, resources, and teaching materials aligned to standards and designed to create a powerful learning experience for your students.
I especially like that the Guide starts with a series of essential questions to help guide the process:
- What was the experience of family wheat farmers on the southern Great Plains during the late 1920s and early 1930s?
- What conditions did ordinary Americans face during the early years of the Great Depression, and how did they respond?
- How did President Roosevelt and his New Deal programs try to ease the economic hardships many Americans experienced?
- Why did some people from the Dust Bowl migrate to California?
The simulation is designed to be completed online but even if your tech situation doesn’t allow for online access, you can find document-based tasks, vocab tools, and handy writing prompts in the Activities section of the Guide. The Resources section contains a ton of primary sources in a variety of different types including charts, graphs, photographs, film transcripts, cartoons, pamphlets, speeches, ads, and oral histories.
Need even more? The EDSITEment folks have put together a series of helpful tools that can be used to provide additional context and background:
Lessons and Articles
- Character in Place: Eudora Welty’s “A Worn Path” for the Common Core
- Depression-Era Photographs: Worth a Thousand Words
- Dust Bowl Days
- Esperanza Rising: Learning Not to Be Afraid to Start Over
- Dorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightning
- FDR: Fireside Chats, the New Deal, and Eleanor
- FDR’s “Four Freedoms” Speech: Freedom by the Fireside
- Life on the Great Plains
Resources using Ken Burns’ documentary film: The Dust Bowl
- How Teachers Can Make the Most of The Dust Bowl
Resources on John Steinbeck
- Steinbeck’s Use of Nonfiction Sources in The Grapes of Wrath
- John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath”: The Inner Chapters
- John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath”: Verbal Pictures
- Tracking John Steinbeck in The Grapes of Wrath
Related EDSITEment-reviewed websites