Putting It All Together
The following activities will help students learn more about Depression-era relief programs as well as discover the history of protected natural resources in their area.
Activity 1: Determining the Success of Jobs
One of the goals of the Recreational Demonstration Area was to ease unemployment caused by the Depression. Have the students use editions of local newspapers (usually available on microfilm in the public library) to determine the economic conditions in their community during the Depression. Then ask a local historian or knowledgeable public official to speak to the class and describe the federal or state job programs that existed in their community or state during the Depression.
Next, have students contact the local Chamber of Commerce to identify the major industries and employers in the area today. Have students discuss what could happen if all of the workers in one or several of these industries or businesses were suddenly unemployed. What would be the short- and long-term effects? Finally, have students work in groups to devise a jobs program that would provide short-term employment and would have long-term benefit for the community. Have students share their ideas and compare them with the WPA and the CCC jobs programs at Camp Misty Mount in the 1930s.
Activity 2: Providing Outdoor Opportunities
Explain to students that during the 1930s, organization camps were seen as the most effective means of helping urban populations obtain an experience in nature. Break students into groups of three to four, and tell them they have just become counselors at a facility like Camp Misty Mount. Their job is to organize a one-week outdoor education program for students their age. Their plans should run Monday through Friday and mix recreation and environmental education. What should the students they will be working with learn, and why? What will the daily schedule be? Are there any facilities they would like to add to Drawing 1 to make this week more enjoyable? Have the groups reassemble and discuss their plans. Conclude by asking them if they think such programs are important, and why they have reached that conclusion.
Activity 3: Recreation and Conservation
The RDAs chose submarginal land for recreational areas to prove that proper conservation would allow forests and fields to recover from human misuse. Have students work in small groups to locate state or federally protected forests or other natural places in their immediate area. Have them find out the current ownership and history of the sites and explain why they are publicly or privately owned. If possible they should look for maps of their locality from 10, 25, and 50 years ago, and note how much natural land was undeveloped compared with today. They might use field guides to determine how long various places have been left to nature or whether they have been part of a reclamation project. Then have students analyze the current conditions of the properties, the growth of surrounding communities, the availability of recreational areas, and the importance of the ecosystem to decide if these areas should be preserved. Have each group present its findings to the class and then hold a general discussion about the quality of the remaining natural places in their locality. If appropriate, have the students write letters to public officials commending specific environmental contributions, or appealing for the conservation or reclamation of additional areas.