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Lesson 2: Drought

Lesson 2: Drought


Students will learn about the cause of California droughts and its effect on other states.


  1. Article: California, 'America's garden', is drying out

  2. U.S. drought data interactive map

  3. Team Campaign Creation handout (LMR_4.4_Team Campaign Creation)

Essential Concepts:

Essential Concepts:

Data can be used to make predictions. Official datasets rely on censuses or random samples and can be used to make generalizations.


  1. Begin the lesson with the quote: “The consequences of drought in California are felt well outside the state’s borders. California is effectively America’s garden – it produces two-thirds of all fruits and nuts grown in the U.S.”

  2. Using the K-L-W strategy in their DS journals, give students a couple of minutes to write what they Know about droughts.

  3. Then, students will write what they Learned about the California drought as they read the article titled California, ‘America’s garden’, is drying up. The article is found at:

  4. Finally, they will write 2-3 questions about what they Want to know/learn about droughts.

  5. Do a quick Whip Around to share some of the students’ responses to the K-L-W.

  6. Next, load an interactive map of U.S. drought data by visiting:

  7. Lead a discussion about what is on the page. Ask:

    1. What do the colors and percentages on the legend mean? Answer: The color is the drought type (Abnormally Dry, Moderate Drought, etc.) and the percentage is the percentage of area of the U.S. that is that type of drought.

    2. What do the colors, percentages, and years on the graph mean? Answer: The colors correspond to the drought type (as mentioned in the previous question), the percentages correspond to the percentage of area of the U.S. that is that type of drought (as mentioned in the previous question), and the years signify the dates for which the data is available.

    3. What information are the map and graph displaying? Answer: The map tells us the areas of drought and the graph tells us percentages of drought over time.

    4. Which date is selected by default and what percent of the U.S. is in Exceptional Drought that day?? Answer: July 10, 2012 and 0.62% is in Exceptional Drought.
      NOTE: If you used a different link other than was listed here, you may have a different default date. In order to see the types of droughts and their percentages, hover your cursor over the graph to line up with the date.

  8. Then click on a new date to update the map. Ask:

    1. What date is displayed now? Answers will vary.

    2. What information is the map displaying? Answers will depend on the chosen date above.

    3. Which states are affected by drought? Answers will depend on the chosen date above.
      NOTE: You can click on a state to display its name.

  9. Then click on the Combine States option, choose a state, and click Combine. Ask:

    1. What information is the map displaying now? Answers will vary but students should see the chosen state as the new map.

    2. What else do you see? Answers will depend on the chosen state above.

    3. What are some wonderings you have about the data? Answers will vary.
      NOTE: There are multiple options here. You can choose to display multiple states by adding another state (or states) and choosing Combine. You can also designate a specific time period in the Time Series Options.

  10. Now that they know the overall layout of the interactive map and its options, ask student teams to complete the Team Campaign Creation handout (LMR_4.4_Team Campaign Creation)
    NOTE: The interactive map has a download data feature that allows customization/ filtering of US drought data. Keep this in mind as an option for students who may be interested in this topic.

Class Scribes:

One team of students will give a brief talk to discuss what they think the 3 most important topics of the day were.