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Alphabet Soup: Rural America and the New Deal

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Social Studies +1 Age Levels Elementary (9 to 12 years old), Middle School (13 to 15 years old)

This lesson explores three different New Deal programs, with a specific eye towards their impact on rural America. As well, it focuses on student engagement with a variety of types of primary sources.  This lesson is designed as a self-contained class activity, which requires no supplementary teaching beyond the MoMS exhibition Crossroads. It is designed to be done in class following a visit to that exhibition, or within an after-school setting following a similar visit.

Age Levels Intermediate (9 to 12 years old), Middle School (12 to 15 years old)


Why are primary sources important?

  1. Direct engagement with artifacts and records of the past encourages deeper content exploration, active analysis, and thoughtful response.
  2. Analysis of primary sources helps develop critical thinking skills by examining meaning, context, bias, purpose, point of view, etc.
  3.  Primary source analysis fosters learner-led inquiry as students construct knowledge by interacting with a variety of sources that represent different accounts of the past.
  4. Students realize that history exists through interpretation that reflects the view points and biases of those doing the interpreting. 

This lesson aims to:

  • Introduce students to New Deal programs that affected rural life and agriculture during the Great Depression.
  • Encourage discussion of the experience of those programs in the context of the Museum on Main Street (MoMS) exhibition Crossroads.
  • Help students practice using different types of sources as research material.

Students should be able to:

  • Identify different types of sources as primary and secondary sources, as well as differentiate between objective and subjective sources.
  • Interrogate textual, video, and visual sources to build a picture of how different programs affected ordinary people.
  • Be able to translate their research into a presentation, and teach it to other students.

See notes for lesson plan instructions.