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Inquiry Question

Historical Context

Maps

Readings

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Activities

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About This Lesson

This lesson is based on the National Register of Historic Places registration file for "Keys' Desert Queen Ranch" (with photographs), and other source material about the ranch. Keys Ranch was written by Jody Lyle, former Park Ranger at Joshua Tree National Park. The lesson was edited by Fay Metcalf, education consultant, and the Teaching with Historic Places staff. TwHP is sponsored, in part, by the Cultural Resources Training Initiative and Parks as Classrooms programs of the National Park Service. This lesson is one in a series that brings the important stories of historic places into the classrooms across the country.

Where it fits into the curriculum
Topics: The lesson could be used in U.S. history, social studies, and geography courses in units on western expansion and settlement, or desert environments. It also could be used in an American Literature course in a unit on the writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson, particularly his concept of self-reliance. The lesson will help students understand why desert regions were among the last areas settled under the Homestead Act and how settlers in these places survived in a remote environment.
Time period: 1910s-1960s.
Relevant United States History Standards for Grades 5-12
Relevant Curriculum Standards for Social Studies
Find your state's social studies and history standards for grades Pre-K-12

Objectives for students
1) To examine the lifestyle of a family who chose to homestead in the California desert.
2) To describe how the Keys family both adapted to and shaped their desert environment.
3) To consider Ralph Waldo Emerson's description of self-reliance and describe how it relates to the life of Bill Keys.
4) To discover the history of settlement in their own region and determine how settlers' experiences may have compared to the experiences of Bill Keys.

Materials for students
The materials listed below either can be used directly on the computer or can be printed out, photocopied, and distributed to students. The maps and images appear twice: in a low-resolution version with associated questions and alone in a larger, high-quality version.
1) two maps of Southwest deserts and Joshua Tree National Park;
2) three readings about settling in a desert and self-reliance;
3) four photos and one drawing of Keys Ranch and the surrounding deserts.

Visiting the site
Keys Ranch is located within the boundaries of Joshua Tree National Park. Administered by the National Park Service, Joshua Tree is located 140 miles east of Los Angeles. It can be entered from Interstate 10 or State Highway 62. For more information, contact the Superintendent, Joshua Tree National Park, 74485 National Park Drive, Twentynine Palms, CA 92277, or visit the park's Web pages.

 

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