A WebQuest for Grades 5 - 6 based on The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder, WebQuest Agricultural Series by Missouri Farm Bureau and Missouri State University


" THAT BLIZZARD seemed never to end. It paused sometimes, only to roar again quickly and more furiously out of the Northwest. Three days and nights of yelling shrill winds and roaring fury beat at the dark, cold house and ceaselessly scoured it with ice-sand. Then the sun shone out, from morning till noon perhaps, and the dark anger of winds and icy snow came again."

The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder

In The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder, an old Indian came to town to warn the people around De Smet, South Dakota that the coming winter would be a long harsh one with big snow. Pa was already worried about the winter to come from other signs he had read in nature, he feared there would be a blizzard.


  • "It's going to be a hard winter," Pa said. "The hardest we ever saw."
  • "I've trapped muskrats a good many years, and I never saw them build their walls so thick."
  • "The wild things know somehow," Pa said. "Every wild creature's got ready for a hard winter."

So with the dire warning from the old Indian, Pa was in a hurry to get his family to safety in the town of De Smet. Ma thought that at least in the town there were stores to buy whatever they needed if they ran low on food. But who could have imagined that there would be snow from October to the middle of April.

Trains brought food supplies for the stores to sell, mail, lumber and coal for the stoves to burn for heating the houses. Unfortunately, during the blizzard of 1880-1881 the snow was so deep and it was so cold that the trains delivering supplies to towns in the west could not get through. Trains were unable to reach stranded town folk until spring arrived and spring was late arriving that year. It was almost May before the supply trains were able to reach De Smet. Lack of food and fuel caused many families to nearly starve and some perished in the freezing weather without fuel (wood or coal) for heat.

Your local weather station has just issued a severe weather warning. A blizzard of immense proportions and intensity is closing in on your town. You only have two days to prepare for the storm. Because you have read about the blizzard of 1881 and the train that could not get through to deliver the food and other supplies that the people needed to survive, many of your classmates are concerned that if a blizzard hits your town, there might not be enough food, fuel or drinking water for everyone. Your task is to help reassure your classmates that food supplies will be sufficient and explain how some of their food gets from the farm to their local grocery store.

As a society, we tend to take for granted that when we walk into any grocery store or supermarket in our town we will see the shelves and counters nearly overflowing with a wide variety of food. However, it does not just magically appear there. Most of us know that our food came from a farm originally, but how did it get to market? What are the steps necessary to take the crops that were harvested on farms that are sometimes in other countries? Take a look at some of these web sites that explain how some of our favorite foods get to your local store: bananas, cranberries, oranges, milk, apples, or green beans.

You will work in teams of four. Each team will complete the following assignments.


  1. Compile a list of foods, drinks and other supplies that a family of 5 in 2005 will need to survive the blizzard if it lasts for 7 long days and nights. Your family is made up of a father, mother, grandfather, you, and a younger brother or sister. You will not be able to go anywhere once the storm hits. You will want to be sure to have food from the various food groups.
  2. As a group, discuss the needs of this family of 5. How will you prepare your home to help you survive if the electricity goes off and remains off for 7 days and nights. What will you need keep warm, cook and use for light.
  3. As a culminating activity, your group will prepare a poster board presentation with lists, pictures, and written details explaining to the class how your family of 5 has survived the blizzard.

One member of the group is responsible for one of the following items for the poster board presentation.


  1. Provide a comprehensive list of foods and drinks you will need and explain why each is a necessary item. Include pictures of several important items.
  2. Provide an extensive list of supplies for heating, lighting, and cooking and explain why each item is necessary for your survival. Include pictures where possible.
  3. Select 5 food items from your team members' lists. Research how each item is transported from the farm or factory to the local stores for consumers to purchase. Collect pictures of these items and how they are transported. Write one paragraph per item explaining how each item reaches a store.
  4. As a member of the 5 person family, you will write a one page report detailing how you spent the hours during the blizzard. What jobs are each family member given to help the family survive. How did you prepare food, keep warm, provide light to see and what forms of entertainment were used to wile away the long hours of wakefulness.

Congratulations, you and your family have survived the Blizzard of 2005! You have lost a little weight and are tired of listening to the blowing and whistling wind 24 hours a day for 7 days. Oh well, you'll be getting plenty of exercise for the next several days as you help shovel the snow from the walks and driveway so your family can go to the store to replenish your dwindling food supplies.


Collaboration Rubric

Name __________________________________
































Research & Gather Information



Does not collect any information that relates to the topic.



Collects very little information--some relates to the topic.



Collects some basic information--most relates to the topic.



Collects a great deal of information--all relates to the topic.




Share Information



Does not relay any information to teammates.



Relays very little information--some relates to the topic.



Relays some basic information--most relates to the topic.



Relays a great deal of information--all relates to the topic.




Be Punctual



Does not hand in any assignments.



Hands in most assignments late.



Hands in most assignments on time.



Hands in all assignments on time.




Take Responsibility








Fulfill Team Role's Duties



Does not perform any duties of assigned team role.



Performs very little duties.



Performs nearly all duties.



Performs all duties of assigned team role.




Participate in Science Conference



Does not speak during the science conference.



Either gives too little information or information which is irrelevant to topic.



Offers some information--most is relevant.



Offers a fair amount of important information--all is relevant.




Share Equally



Always relies on others to do the work.



Rarely does the assigned work--often needs reminding.



Usually does the assigned work--rarely needs reminding.



Always does the assigned work without having to be reminded.




Value Others' Viewpoints








Listen to Other Teammates



Is always talking--never allows anyone else to speak.



Usually doing most of the talking--rarely allows others to speak.



Listens, but sometimes talks too much.



Listens and speaks a fair amount.




Cooperate with Teammates



Usually argues with teammates.



Sometimes argues.



Rarely argues.



Never argues with teammates.




Make Fair Decisions



Usually wants to have things their way.



Often sides with friends instead of considering all views.



Usually considers all views.



Always helps team to reach a fair decision.













Collaboration Rubric by Pickett and Dodge 2002.

Wilder, Laura Ingalls. The Long Winter. New York: Scholastic, Inc. 1968.

The Homesteader. Manter, Kansas: Softegrity, LLC. Volume 3, Issue 2. Winter 2004-2005.


This WebQuest was created by teachers participating in Missouri's Agriculture in the Classroom program at Missouri State University through a USDA grant.  The template on this site was adapted from a template from The WebQuest Page and the original was designed by Dr. Lyndon Irwin.  Assistance for this project was provided by Mrs. Barbara Irwin, M.S. and Mrs. Diane Olson, M.S.

Teachers are encouraged to adapt this lesson for classroom use only.  No part of this publication may be transmitted, stored, recorded or published in any form without written permission from Missouri Farm Bureau.

This page was developed by the late Barbara Irwin, reviewed by Lyndon and the late Barbara Irwin and is maintained by Missouri Farm Bureau. Please address questions to Diane Olson at Missouri Farm Bureau.