Lesson Four: A Potpourri of Ideas
The following suggestions may be useful if you have
students who wish to do enrichment activities or independent
Ask students to identify world issues that worry them
personally (environmental problems, terrorism, disease,
- Ask each student to identify the problem that
distresses them most, and write a letter to the person they
believe has the greatest influence in solving it--whether
it's the President, the First Lady, a member of Congress,
an athlete, or an entertainment personality.
- Let students see for themselves the kinds of responses they receive.
What conclusions can they draw?
- In what specific ways did each powerful person seek to address the issue raised? Which approach seems more helpful and why?
- Based on the responses received by the class, do students believe that it can be useful to write to a celebrity seeking a solution to an identified problem?
- Were the modern responses similar to those received by the children who wrote to Mrs. Roosevelt?
How have the needs of children been considered by
agencies of the local, state, and federal government
- Ask individual students to study the
various reform eras of the U.S.: the 1840s, the Progressive
Era during the time of Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and
Woodrow Wilson, the New Deal of FDR, and the Great Society of
- Ask students to combine the information they
gathered by making a classroom time line. Have them place on
it brief descriptions of laws or other actions that expanded
the protections, rights or privileges guaranteed to young
people during each of these periods. Ask students to
generalize about the scope of these changes over time.
Note: For a simpler version of this, ask students to
contrast any one of the major reform movements with that of the
New Deal in terms of how each effort advanced the rights and
privileges of young people.
Ask the local delegate to the state legislature to
visit your classroom and speak to the students about how
state laws protect the children and youth of your state. Ask
the legislator to explain the relationship between state and
federal government agencies in protecting the interests of
Ask students to closely study the photographs of young people provided
in the "Dear Mrs. Roosevelt" feature and elsewhere in the archive. Ask them what conclusions they can
draw about the differences in tone and mood observable in the photos.
Ask students to carefully observe
Photograph A and
Photograph B, by Arnold Eagle and David Robbins, from the New Deal Network archives.
Make a quick checklist of details they notice in each photo.
- What kinds of activities are taking place?
- How are the people dressed?
- What kinds of buildings do they notice in the photos?
Ask students to make some inferences from the photographs.
- Who do they imagine the people are? What relationships might exist between people in the same photograph?
- What kinds of activities are the people engaged in?
- What kind of neighborhood do they live in?
- Do they seem happy and healthy? Do they seem "at home" in the locale of the photograph?
After a time for observation and inference, ask students what government or non-profit programs might be helpful to these people.
- Ask students what specific New Deal Programs might have been available to this community in the late 1930s.
- Ask students to think about how the pictures might look different with government or non-profit agencies in place.
An extended assignment, ask students to cut pictures out of magazines that they think are typical images of American communities in the 1990s. Try to get a good representation from small town, city, and suburban neighborhoods.
- After students observe and make inferences from selected pictures, ask them if they see evidence that governmental agencies or non-profit organizations have helped improve these
communities in some way (such as evidence of police protection, parks and playgrounds, handicap ramps, etc.).
- How do the 1990s pictures compare with 1930s photos from the preceding activities?
- Ask students if they believe the government's role in helping improve communities should be broadened or narrowed, and why.
Divide students into two groups for a research assignment. Ask Group 1 to study Eleanor Roosevelt's role as First Lady during the Great Depression.
Ask Group 2 to conduct research about a recent First
Lady (1945-1996), and share information with the class regarding her special "outreach" focus (such as Mrs. Bush's literacy project).
After students have gathered information, ask each group to prepare a Commencement Address for their chosen First Lady on the topic "The Rewards and Challenges of Serving as First Lady." Ask willing students to role-play the various First Ladies in order to deliver the speeches to a class audience. Follow up by asking the class to draw conclusions about each of the women's roles:
- Which modern First Lady seemed most similar to Mrs. Roosevelt?
- Did you find that the public's expectations of what modern First Ladies must accomplish are any different from what they were in Mrs. Roosevelt's time?
- First Ladies sometimes draw criticism from the public. Is there evidence to suggest that the public is more critical of recent First Ladies than they were of Mrs. Roosevelt?
- From what you have learned of these First Ladies, would you feel comfortable writing a letter to one of them? Explain.
Two New Deal organizations that helped many young
people and that Mrs. Roosevelt enthusiastically supported
were the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC, 1933) and the National
youth Administration (NYA, 1935). Ask students to study further to
find out exactly how these organizations worked. Ask them to
find out what circumstances led to the demise of each. (Professor Cohen's article provides this information.)
Some people believe that programs such as the NYA and the CCC should be re-established as a partial means of solving problems faced by today's youth.
- Ask several students to write your district's United States Congressional Representatives and Senators asking for information about any current government programs that are similar to the NYA and CCC (such as Job Corps or Americorps).
As an alternative, ask students to use a Web search engine such as Yahoo or AltaVista to locate information about modern government-funded programs.
- Share this information with the class, asking them to conclude whether current programs offer similar opportunities to the young.
- As a culminating activity, ask students to write a brief position paper:
Resolved: "The U.S. Congress should re-institute the Civilian Conservation Corps and the National Youth Administration as a means of addressing today's youth problems."