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FDR's Tree Army: Personal Turning Points in the CCC

In this activity students learn about the goals of the Civilian Conservation Corps and the opportunities it provided for young men. Students create poster presentations about different aspects of the CCC by combining photographs and quotes from primary sources. Students will need poster-making supplies (including poster board or paper, markers, scissors, and glue/markers).


Objectives

  • Students will be able to describe the goals of the Civilian Conservation Corps and explain how it fit into the broader goals of the New Deal.  

  • Students analyze primary sources to determine to what extent joining the CCC was a turning point in the lives of young men.  

  • Students will create posters that illustrate photographs from the CCC era with quotes from primary documents describing life in the CCC.  

Instructions

Step 1: Introduce the activity with the following focus questions: 

  • How did the CCC help build public support for FDR's New Deal?

  • To what extent was the CCC a personal turning point for enrollees?  

Step 2: Show the brief presentation that includes the FDR quote and poster and discuss.

Step 3: Show the film FDR's Tree Army: The Civilian Conservation Corps.  As students watch the film, ask them to think about both the national impact and the individual impact of the program, as well as who was NOT impacted by the CCC. (The teacher may want to assign different students or different groups different focus questions to think about as they watch the film.) After the film, lead students in a brief discussion of the national and individual impact of CCC projects; also discuss who, if anyone, was not impacted by the CCC.

Step 4: Divide students into five groups. Give each group a packet of the images and a different written primary source. Students should read the document and create a poster presentation on the theme of the CCC as a turning point.  (The last slide of the presentation includes directions for students to view.) The posters should include:

  • One or more images

  • Captions for each image created from key quotes from the document.

  • An original title that summarizes the group's overall interpretation of the CCC

Step 5: Hang posters around the room and have students carousel to examine each poster. Discuss what quotes or images from the other groups was most surprising.  

Historical Context

During the Great Depression an estimated 250,000 youths left home to search for work, to ease the burden on their families, to escape an abusive home life, or to find adventure. Opportunities for work were rare and many young Americans hitch-hiked or illegally rode freight trains, traveling from town to town. President Franklin Roosevelt sought to provide young men with another path by establishing the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in 1933. Part of Roosevelt’s New Deal relief programs, the CCC gave temporary employment to three million young men, who lived in military-style camps and worked on conservation and construction projects in national parks. Hard work was rewarded with three square meals, job training, and a $30 monthly paycheck—which is equivalent to about $432 today—$25 of which was sent directly to CCC enrollees' families. Beyond material comforts, many CCC workers found a renewed sense of purpose and hope in the camps.

Source | American Social History Project/Center for Media and Learning, 2009.
Creator | American Social History Project/Center for Media and Learning
Item Type | Teaching Activity
Cite This document | American Social History Project/Center for Media and Learning, “FDR's Tree Army: Personal Turning Points in the CCC,” HERB: Resources for Teachers, accessed September 21, 2019, https://herb.ashp.cuny.edu/items/show/1383.

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