Decade of The Great Depression

Adapted with permission by Jay Daly & Zack Deal
from Lisa Heres' The Great Depression Webquest

zdeal@pobox.com

 

Introduction | Task | Process | Resources | Evaluation | Conclusion | For Teachers

Introduction:

It is August 1939 and Americans are still recovering from the Great Depression--the worse nightmare that has ever happened to the United States. For the last ten years, since 1929, this country has experienced total economic collapse. Who could have imagined that this would happen in our modern industrial world?

The Wall Street stock-market crash of 1929 signalled the beginning of this Great Depression, even if it did not actually cause it. Ten years have passed and this economic depression has had devastating effects on most people in this country. Production fell sharply. Unemployment went through the roof. No one had much money, so purchasing declined. Thousands of businesses and hundreds of banks have closed.
We are a country of small farmers, but farmers everywhere have gone into bankruptcy. People lost their jobs, homes, and savings, and now many depend on charity to survive. In 1933, more than 15 million Americans--one-quarter of the nation's workforce--were unemployed.
One of many farms up for sale!
 




Our job as newsreel reporters is to tell it like it is. We need to find out what the mood of the country is. Have things improved a little? Is there hope? What shows signs of coming back to life? What is irrevocably gone and lost forever? Are we going to make it? That's what we need to find out. Are we going to make it? Are things getting better? Or not?


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Introduction | Task | Process | Resources | Evaluation | Conclusion | For Teachers

Task:

You and your team of reporters have been assigned to develop a retrospective newsreel for the 1930ís. The retrospective will be used as part of a newsreel informing the pubic about the Great Depression and New Deal and its positive and negative affects on the United States. Your team is assigned the task of researching, writing, and producing segments for the newsreel. The segments should include information about how people from all walks of life in the United States experienced the economic and political changes during the Great Depression.

Items to possibly include in this newsreel are old photographs, sound recordings of speakers reminiscing, movie clips (if there are any available), and 'interviews' with national and local politicians, wealthy and bankrupt businessmen and employed and unemployed men and women. Consider the various regions of the country and jobs people had working for the CCC, the Bonus Army, or TVA.

Questions you need to ask people during interviews and consider as you conduct your research include these: What was the worse thing you experienced during the last 10 years? Are things better now than they were previously during the past ten year? If so, what has improved? What still needs to change?



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Introduction | Task | Process | Resources | Evaluation | Conclusion | For Teachers

Process:

  1. Watch newsreels from the 1930ís. There is a good list of them at http://xroads.virginia.edu/~1930s2/Film/news/newsreel.html  This will give you a good feel for what your newsreel clips might look like and sound like. You can be creative, but times are hard.

  2. Within your small group, decide for yourselves who will assume each of these roles.
  • Team Leader/Speaker/Researcher
  • Monitor/Facilitator/Researcher
  • Recorder/Checker/Researcher
  • Visual Producer/Researcher
  • Resource Organizer -   Sources/Citations/Researcher

    Your group is expected to complete at least 4 newsreel segments. This division of labor will help you be organized.

  1.  3. Review the web sites listed under Resources. Concentrate on the primary sources first. Research during this time period. Find interviews, speeches, photographs, movie clips, and sound clips from individuals and groups who lived, worked, and survived this difficult time in American history. Find a variety of sources that will help your group develop segments for the groupís newsreel.

  2.  4. Using note cards, record information on the individuals that you will be including in your newsreel segments. Make sure a variety of individuals are included in the groupís newsreel. Groups can include 'interviews' with national and local politicians, wealthy and bankrupt businessmen, and employed and unemployed men and women. In addition, consider the various regions of the country and jobs people had working for the CCC, the Bonus Army, or TVA.

  3. Compile a list of resources that will be used to develop the script for the newsreel.

  4. Meet with teacher to discuss resources and topics to be covered within the newsreel.

  5. Begin script writing with your group after receiving approval from the teacher. Try to write your script so that each person in your group is able to be an actor or actress playing an historical character.

  6. Meet with the teacher to get approval for beginning the production of the newsreel.

  7. Groups begin filming the newsreel segments after receiving approval from the teacher.

  8. Share completed newsreels with the class.
A few notes on the final product

The class project is to make one newsreel that is between 20 and 30 minutes long. Each group contributes by preparing 4 or 5 video segments. If each segment is no more than 2 minutes long, each group will be contributing between eight and ten minutes of the complete newsreel.

There are many topics to research--famous people, historically important events, ordinary people who lived through difficult times, freak weather conditions that plagued us, folks who had experiences (sometimes even good experiences) that they might not have had otherwise. We must hear from all those interesting people. Sometimes they left us voice recordings or sang or played instruments into a microphone. Often people wrote--letters, books, stories, comedy shows and many other things. Photographs sometime help us understand something about their living conditions and what the economic conditions made people do differently and put up with. All of this is part of our rich heritage from those sad years. It is our job to document the pain and suffering, but also the humor and laughter, when we can find it. We must record the strength of the American spirit--the tenacity, the vitality, the neighborliness and, yes, the confounded competitiveness, too. All of that is part and parcel of who we are.


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Introduction | Task | Process | Resources | Evaluation | Conclusion | For Teachers

Resources:
Click on the links below to start on your research.  Please remember that you are not limited to these resources!  Many of these web sites list other valuable links. You may wish to explore a topic in greater detail  You may also use the sites listed on the page "For Teachers" for additional information. Click here for a list of primary and secondary resources.
Primary Sources
Secondary Sources

Arkansas Squatter's Shack in California during the Great Depression

Arkansas Squatter's Shack in California during the Great Depression


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Introduction | Task | Process | Resources | Evaluation | Conclusion | For Teachers

Evaluation:
 Please click here to see the grading rubric that will be used to formulate your grade for this project. You will earn points for each of the areas listed.  The points earned will be divided by the total possible points to find a percent grade.

Photograph of 'Okies' (from Oklahoma) Driving to California During the Great Depression

Photograph of 'Okies' (from Oklahoma) Driving to California During the Great Depression


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Introduction | Task | Process | Resources | Evaluation | Conclusion | For Teachers

Conclusion:    
 
    Congratulations on completing your Decade of the Great Depression Newsreel    

The Great Depression and New Deal had a major impact on the lives of many Americans. In this webquest, you learned how this period affected the lives of various groups of Americans. You learned how farmers, factory workers, and many of the poor had to struggle to make it through the Great Depression. You have seen how some rich people and politicians opposed the notion of government helping unemployed poor people. Others who were rich and politically powerful did work to provide a safety net for those who were struggling because of the backward economy. Some of the programs established during the 1930ís still affect our lives today.

Through this project you have come in contact with primary source materials containing the actual words and images of people who lived through this difficult period. If you happen to know a person who lived through the Great Depression, tell them about your research. And listen carefully to the story they have to tell of their experiences during the Great Depression.   


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Introduction | Task | Process | Resources | Evaluation | Conclusion | For Teachers

Additional Resources For Teachers

Michigan Historical Center.Lesson Ideas for the Great Depression.

Library of Congress.Using Oral History.Lesson Overview.

Sarah Feldman.Hard Times, Soft Sell.


Walking 30 miles to visit family in Santa Fe.  May 1935

Walking 30 miles to visit family in Santa Fe. May 1935

Credits
Image of "Soup Kitchen" imported from: www.ssa.gov/history/acoffee.html

Image of USPS Stamp imported from: www.usps.com/images/  stamps/ctc_txt.htm

Tire image imported from: www.icon-stl.net/~jdesloge/ dpressn.html

Picture below imported from: www.homestead.com/homefront/ ShoeleatherMainPage.html

All other images were downloaded from history1900s.about.com/library/photos/


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Photograph of Unemployed Workers Marching in New Jersey During the Great Depression

Photograph of Unemployed Workers Marching in New Jersey During the Great Depression
Wisconsin Standards Addressed

Our main objective was to allow the students to be historians, exploring and evaluating primary sources, discovering the richness and variety of stories and images that illuminate the past, and then selecting for themselves what information they would use to tell the story of the Great Depression. This activity should allow student to accomplish this history standard:
B.8.1 Interpret the past using a variety of sources, such as biographies, diaries, journals, artifacts, eyewitness interviews, and other primary source materials, and evaluate the credibility of sources used

By looking at the events of the Great Depression, students will acquire a deep understanding of how the economy is fundamental to the American way of life. The sources themselves will expose them to some of the constructs and concepts in this economics standard:
D.8.2 Identify and explain basic economic concepts: supply, demand, production, exchange, and consumption; labor, wages, and capital; inflation and deflation; market economy and command economy; public and private goods and services.

Introduction | Task | Process | Resources | Evaluation | Conclusion | For Teachers

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