The Children’s Blizzard, a free mini-unit

Today marks the 130th anniversary of the Children’s Blizzard, the deadliest blizzard to hit the plains states. At least 235 people died when they were surprised by a sudden storm characterized by fierce winds and zero visibility. Over 100 children died, most of whom had been sent home from school early in hopes they could beat the storm. The death toll among children made the storm particularly tragic for these pioneer communities and gave the storm its name. This unit teaches about how blizzards develop, why the Children’s Blizzard was so deadly and shares some of the survival stories from this tragic event.

The Children's Blizzard a free mini unit

January 12, 1888 dawned warm and bright. It was a welcome reprieve for settlers who had been battered by a brutal winter. The unseasonably mild weather spelled disaster, however. As children left their coats at home to enjoy the  weather on their way to school, they had no way of knowing that it was exactly this warm, moist air that would feed the arctic blast racing across the plains, creating a deadly blizzard. This presentation on The Children’s Blizzard goes over how the blizzard formed, why it was so deadly and the effects it had on the plains. It even has a brief quiz at the end to see if you were paying attention. Use it for an educational break or part of a larger unit on winter weather, Western Expansion or state history. It made its mark on South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota, Nebraska, Kansas, Wyoming, Idaho and Montana. All but Kansas, Nebraska and Minnesota were still territories at the time. (You can use the little arrow in the bottom right corner to full screen the presentation.) Best of all, you do not even need to leave this site to get all the information unless you want to read more about the blizzard.


And while we are on the subject of winter (and especially while schools were canceled here due to a winter storm), here is an excellent resource for preparing yourself for dangerous winter weather. Whether you are at home, at the office, in the car or out in the open, there are things you can do to ride out the storm more comfortably and things you need to know to increase your chances of survival.

If you want more than just a summary of this historic tragedy, check out The Children’s Blizzard, by David Laskin.

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12 thoughts on “The Children’s Blizzard, a free mini-unit

  1. This is so timely! Yesterday here in the Midwest, southern Missouri to be exact for us, we had a morning similar to the one 1/12/1888. Warm 60+ degrees in the morning and by 1 pm we were well below freezing with wind. Thank goodness it did not come with heavy snow or ice but without modern technology it could have been very scary and dangerous for those not prepared. Thanks for the free lesson, I will be bookmarking it for future use.

    1. It was a crazy and terrible winter for the whole country. The most famous and most deadly blizzard of all would hit a few months later in the north east. It was actually kind of hard to find information and pictures because so many of them were actually from the Great Blizzard in March. It surprised me how many of the videos talking about the Children’s Blizzard were using images from the Great Blizzard.

    1. You are welcome! I first heard about it several years ago because there were a number of events commemorating the 125th anniversary.

    1. Thanks! I hope a lot of people find it useful. I am hoping to do more of these, but I need to think up some more topics!

  2. That’s so sad and such an awful tragedy caused by a natural disaster. I hadn’t heard of this blizzard before so this is a great educational information for those of us who are not familiar with this tragedy.

  3. This is such a sad and awful tragedy caused by a natural disaster. I hadn’t heard of this blizzard before. This is such an educational information for those of us who are not familiar with it.

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