Begin by looking at the suggested images for this time period. Are there any themes that they notice? What do students know about the Work Progress Administration; discuss how these paintings are reflective of that time? The public schools in New York City greatly benefited from federal funding for the arts, and many people, with a wide variety of backgrounds, were employed to use their artistic skill to enhance our built environment. In fact, the 1930’s remain the most documented time in American history, thanks to funding made available for photographers to document the daily hardships of ordinary Americans. English teachers can share the travel guides that were written under the auspices of the WPA. (The photographs and travel guides can be found on-line in the Library of Congress.)
In 2009, our government is currently working hard to make sure that the markets don’t crash as they did in 1929, marking the beginning of the Great Depression. Students studying government or current affairs can come up with a policy and its supported programs that would help put people back to work. Discuss the current administrations policies for putting people back in the work force. How are policies written and what qualities are important to have in a program? To take it one step further have students design a policy and programs that could benefit the school. They can design and print their own money to create a kind of micro-economy inside the school. (See current news stories about towns around the United States that have printed and are circulating their own money.) Literature and art students can document the daily lives of people in their communities. Have student conduct interviews, write travel essays, and take pictures that reflect the times.