Study Guide


Table of Contents:


About the Video and Teaching Resources

Notable People

  • Individuals appearing in the film or have connection with the content

Vocabulary

  • Ideas and historical times/concepts associated with the video

Video time sequence

  • For instructors preferring to show the video in sections over several class periods, the time sequence describes the video by time & topic sections.

The Man and His Music

  • Timeline of Woody's life
  • Folk music - Background Information
  • Discussion Questions
  • Activities
  • Resources - Folk music and Woody Guthrie

Dust Bowl and the Great Depression

  • Background Information
  • Discussion Questions
  • Activities
  • Resources

Public vs. Private Control of Utilities

  • Background Information
  • Discussion Questions
  • Activities
  • Resources

Development of the Columbia River and Impacts on Native American Cultures and the Environment

  • Background Information
  • Discussion Questions
  • Activities
  • Resources

McCarthyism

  • Background Information
  • Discussion Questions
  • Activities
  • Resources

About the Video and Teaching Resources

The story of Woody Guthrie and how he came to write songs for the Bonneville Power Administration is a story of the historic convergence of an American folk music icon and a great public works project. Guthrie's observations on the harsh realities of the depression and the promise of harnessing the power of the Columbia river have become some of the most enduring anthems of Pacific Northwest history. Through interviews with Guthrie contemporaries and experts, the video recounts his visit to Oregon, one of the most creatively productive months of his life. Featured are eleven of the twenty-six songs that Guthrie wrote during this time including such classics as "Roll On Columbia," "Grand Coulee Dam," and "Pastures of Plenty." A truly interdisciplinary project, the video can be used across the curriculum in areas such as history, music, art, environmental studies, political science, American literature, folklore, and public policy. It makes an excellent vehicle for an integrated curriculum.

The range of topics and disciplines the video addresses make it difficult to design teaching resources suitable for every group's use. But, we hope this website will provide some guidance in making "Roll On Columbia: Woody Guthrie and the B.P.A." a catalyst for further study and discussions in a number of areas.

As the film covers a wide spectrum of topics, the material in this study guide is intended to give instructors an introduction to Woody Guthrie and his musical heritage, a historical background on the development of hydroelectric dams on the Columbia River and a basic understanding of the evolution of the electric utility industry. The sections on the cultural and environmental impacts of the building of the Columbia River dams are an acknowledgment of the controversy currently surrounding the dams. The video may inspire discussion of the dams, including their impacts on wild salmon runs and the proposed breaching of some dams in the Pacific Northwest. The producers are sensitive to the fact that while the salmon are not a primary focus of the video, questions on how the dams have affected salmon habitat are likely to arise.

This study guide was created by Lynette Boone and Katy Lenn of University of Oregon with help from Ed Johnson of Eugene 4J School District.

Return to Table of Contents