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Activity Idea: Spring on the Missouri (Quick Tip)

Use the following strategies with Thomas Hart Benton’s Spring on the Missouri

  1. Predicting the Action [language arts, social studies]

Benton’s painting documents the damaging effects of the 1937 flood. Describe the action of this painting in a short sentence. Predict what might have occurred five minutes before and five minutes after the scene in the painting. Write a story about this event that includes your predictions. Add illustrations, if you wish. Share these stories with the class.

  1. The Great Flood of 1937 [social studies]

Visit the following web sites to learn about the 1937 flood: and Compare the documentary evidence you collect with Benton’s memory of his encounters with flood victims. Which do you think tells you more about the event? Why? As an extension, compare this flood with the damage Hurricane Floyd brought to North Carolina in 1999.

  1. Preparing for Disaster [science, social studies]

How are these people reacting to the flood? What kinds of items are they taking with them? Make a list of the items in your home or room that you would take with you if you had to flee in a natural disaster. Why would you want to take those particular items along? Compare these lists as a class. Which one or two items do most people have on their lists? As an extension, compare this scene with Volaire’ Eruption of Mt. Vesuvius [link].

  1. The Power of Colors [art]

List the colors you see in Benton’s painting. Note the location of those colors on a color wheel. Identify the type of colors he includes—Primary? Secondary? Complementary? Which colors does Benton use to catch your eye? Which make the scene more dramatic?

  1. Weather Conditions [science, art]

What are the weather conditions in the painting? How do we adapt to our weather?  Why would weather be very important to these figures? What does the weather mean for their crops? How does the weather affect Benton’s choice of colors? How would they have been different if it had been a sunny day?

  1. Emergency Management [science, social studies]

What are some natural disasters that occur in your region? How do you prepare for these? Visit and learn more about the ways the government supports people in times of emergency. Consider why it is important to help friends and neighbors during times of difficulty. Write and illustrate a story about a time when one of your friends or family members helped you in an emergency.