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Children of the Dust Bowl: The True Story of…

Children of the Dust Bowl: The True Story of the School at Weedpatch Camp (edition 1993)

by Jerry Stanley

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58618716,822 (4.22)1
Title:Children of the Dust Bowl: The True Story of the School at Weedpatch Camp
Authors:Jerry Stanley
Info:Crown Books for Young Readers (1993), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 96 pages
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Children of the Dust Bowl by Jerry Stanley



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CHILDREN OF THE DUST BOWL: THE TRUE STORY OF THE SCHOOL AT WEEDPATCH CAMP is an engaging and fascinating text about the remarkable endeavors of educator Leo Hart.

The book begins with an overview of life for the "Okies"--think THE GRAPES OF WRATH--during the Dust Bowl / Great Depression Era. These poor, displaced people were marginalized from society and viciously discriminated against. They faced intense resistance from the establishments of the day, and it came to be where their children were not even allowed to be in school. Leo Hart, a former school leader, became a champion for the Okies. He has a vision to build a school just for them. The problem was, they didn't have any money or political support. So, with a crew of volunteer teachers and a student body comprised essentially of homegrown refugees, Hart began a school program where the task of building the school became the heart of the curriculum. These students' "classes" included hands-on learning experiences with construction, plumbing, electrical work, woodworking, agriculture, butchering, etc.--skills that they needed to function in the real world. This approach is sure to put a smile on the faces of teachers and students alike as they read this book. I wondered at many points why more schools don't take a similar tack of having kids actually DO STUFF--especially with all the buzz around STEM fields. I would love to see more students getting their hands dirty planting seeds, or measuring the energy collected by solar panels, or building a terrarium for a class pet--things of that nature. Of course, the extreme conditions and context of the Dust Bowl mean that recreating Hart's Weedpatch "experiment" is quite impossible. Nevertheless, this story is inspiring throughout, and readers can learn a lot by exploring this rich and fascinating piece of American history.

This non-fiction text is well-suited for students studying the Dust Bowl or Great Depression, as well as anyone interested in non-traditional schooling. The text contains pictures throughout which add a sense of realness to the whole project. There are some remarkable photos--worth 1,000 words-- of the kids in action: nailing the schoolhouse together, laying the pipes for the school's running water, diving into a swimming pool they made, and standing around a professional butcher who volunteered to come in and show the students how to handle a slaughtered animal. I found myself wondering why I had never learned this skill--never even seen it, really. It is something a man of my age would have known in centuries past, and yet I found myself almost embarrassed (after all my years of academic schooling) that these students were probably learning more useful skills that I did at that age. They would know how to build a house, install the wiring, and prepare food literally from farm to table. I found their approach extremely satisfying and motivating. To be sure, historian Jerry Stanley doesn't sugarcoat the harsh realities that this community faced: starvation, illness, extreme poverty, persecution, etc. He did his research, and he interviewed many of the students and teachers who were there for that first class. He presents several direct quotes which detail their many tribulations and obstacles. A lesson of acceptance and perseverance permeates the book. One of the most compelling parts of Stanley's scholarship here is the follow-up on what became of these students. He tracks several success stories, and makes it clear that these young students ended up making something of themselves. What's more, the book honors how Leo Hart brought a sense of purpose and pride to a struggling, desperate community that had been outcast from society. Highly recommend. ( )
  andrewzutell | May 11, 2017 |
Children of the Dust Bowl: The True Story of the School at Weedpatch Camp follows the journey of Midwestern migrants forced from their homes during the Dust Bowl. More precisely, the book illustrates the life of children at an experimental school at Weedpatch Camp. On their way west down Route 66, the Okies, as they were often misnomered, faced the hardships of poverty and discrimination at the hands of their countrymen. At the Weedpatch Camp, life was not much easier; but their school provided a unique and constructive experience that taught young Okies the practical skills they would need to survive in their uncertain environment.
My favorite aspect of the book is its wealth of access features, namely the impactful photographs. Photographs like the ones featured throughout were heavily utilized within the US during the 1930s to raise public and political awareness about the state of regions throughout the US. After 80 years, the impact still lasts.
I used the book in my US History class in conjunction with Don Brown's Great American Dust Bowl, a graphic novel that covers discusses the causes and effects of the natural and man-made disaster. I find the scope and severity of a drought to be a foreign concept to explain to kids from New Orleans, so having the images handy helped.
The author, Jerry Stanley, is a reputable scholar on the subject of the history of the Western US. His credentials are noted in the Author's Notes at the end of the book. ( )
  Igraham1 | Apr 25, 2017 |
Children of the Dust Bowl with ISBN: 978-0-517-88094-4 published in 1992 is a photographic essay of the people living in the "Panhandle" of Texas as well as the surrounding areas of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas, and Colorado collectively called the "Dust Bowl", conditions of living in the Dust Bowl, their journey to California, and the subsequent discrimination they would face after arriving. The use of vivid language allows the reader to immerse themselves in the "Okie's" shoes. "The growers offered thirty-five cents an hour for plums and nectarines [...] and a starvation wage of two and a half cents for a box of peaches - one dollar for a ton of peaches." "Even if we found work," one squatter said, "the people starved. We lived like animals." This vivid, yet precise language makes an appeal to the reader's emotions while informing the reader exactly how bleak the conditions were. The tone while remaining neutral in terms of the author, the quotes selected were partisan in speaking out against the discrimination Okies received in California. More appeals to emotion yet factually accurate depictions of discrimination of Okies by California residents was abhorrent "Daddy, them things look almost like people when the stand on their legs, don't they"? ( )
  jallen3 | Mar 29, 2017 |
“Children of the Dust Bowl: The True Story of the School at Weedpatch Camp” was a great book. Its details two different paths of a story that unite with the result being an incredible school and an “Okie” story. The first part is the story of the “Okie’s” and the destruction of their lands caused by a drought. Time to head west and maybe get dysentery, too. It was rough, but they saw a little hope when they finally made it through the last mountain pass. The Okies looked out from the top of the mountain and saw lush green fields as far as they could see. When they reached the bottom, they saw a grim reality, signs telling them to return home. Ouch!
They faced extreme discrimination by found hope in a man named Leo Hart. He built a school with New Deal money from the Farm Security Administration. Three of the buildings are on the National Registry of Historic Places. The school was a version of Montessori on steroids for its day. Anything that could be taught was learned through a group of professional volunteers. This school paid divides when the book acknowledged a number of students became specialists, engineers, educators, and various other professions.
The book includes a few features that eased my navigation of the book. These features included a table of contents, authors note, index, and bibliography. The author, Jerry Stanley, attained the information in the book through research culled from other books viewed good sources and from John Steinbeck’s research during the Grapes of Wrath. I want to point out that the pictures used could tell the Okie story alone. They are amazing and capture the reality that is hard to put into words.
This is one of the few migration stories in American History that had a happy ending. The book was great and I would use it as a complementary piece to Grapes of Wrath. I’d recommend it to young readers starting around nine years old. It’s an easy read that can be finished in under an hour. ( )
  S.Johnson | Mar 29, 2017 |
“Children of the Dust Bowl: The True Story of the School at Weedpatch Camp” is a moving story about the lives of the displaced children of the dust bowl and a dedicated educator, Leo Hart, as they worked together to build a new home, community, and school. The book begins by describing the conditions of life for farmers in “the Panhandle” during the dust bowl of the 1930s. The story is told in an enumerative or topical structure, as it next describes "the Okies" journey on Route 66 as they searched for a better life in California. The author, Jerry Stanley, describes the horrible conditions and discrimination that the Okies faced once they reached California, and the toll it took on the children whose lives were uprooted so they could have a better life. He uses descriptive language to describe the dire circumstances that the Okies endured, such as when he described how the children “wore dresses made out of chicken-feed sacks, baggy overalls held up by rope, and frequently no shoes at all” while they were forced to sit on the floor in the back of the classroom at school. The author seems to be trying to set the stage for the story of the Weedpatch School, but it seems as though the chapters are a bit disjointed. The author does a good job of smoothly transitioning from one chapter to the next with concluding paragraphs that introduce the topics that he focuses on in the following chapter, but the overall story seems to lack cohesiveness. It feels as though the author’s tone and writing suddenly jumps from describing the hardships that dustbowl refugees faced in chapter four to telling the uplifting story of the nontraditional Weedpatch School beginning in chapter five.

Although there is no true bibliography, Stanley provides a “bibliographic note and picture credits” section in which he describes the references he used to write the story as well as list his photograph sources. The “about the author” section at the very end of the book also states that Stanley interviewed Leo Hart, Pete Bancroft, as well as teachers and students from the Weedpatch School in order to accurately tell the story of the discrimination that the students faced and convey the pride and emotional connection that the children felt to the school. Quotes from Leo Hart and these teachers and students paint a picture of supportive and loving environment that allowed the Okie children to thrive. The author’s message really seems to focus on community support and overcoming adversity. The photographs provided throughout the book also help the reader imagine the adversity that the Okie children faced and the amount of effort they put in to building a better future for themselves.

This is truly an inspiring story, and as an educator, it reminds me that our focus must always be on the needs of the student. Leo Hart was able to provide a meaningful education to the children of the Weedpatch School by creating a community of love and support while focusing on building “a richer and broader curriculum.” ( )
  ssmithers | Mar 25, 2017 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0517880946, Paperback)

Illus. with photographs from the Dust Bowl era. This true story took place at the emergency farm-labor camp immortalized in Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath. Ostracized as "dumb Okies," the children of Dust Bowl migrant laborers went without school--until Superintendent Leo Hart and 50 Okie kids built their own school in a nearby field.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:31 -0400)

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Describes the plight of the migrant workers who traveled from the Dust Bowl to California during the Depression and were forced to live in a federal labor camp and discusses the school that was built for their children.

(summary from another edition)

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