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Faces of the Great Depression

School: Fitchburg Arts Academy

City/State: Fitchburg, MA

Grade(s): 5

Format(s): Interview(s)

Subject(s): English Language Arts, Social Studies

Project Overview

This book was created by 5th graders at the Fitchburg Arts Academy in Fitchburg, Massachusetts as part of a learning expedition on the Great Depression.

The expedition was a collaboration between the humanities and art teachers.

Students learned about the Depression though several different sources: in addition to standard historical research, they also read a historical fiction novel titled Esperanza Rising, studied the photography of Dorothea Lange, and interviewed local people from the Fitchburg Senior Center who lived through the Great Depression.

The book shown here is what students created from their interviews with community elders. Students wrote up the interviews in third-person format and included photos and expressive drawings, which were supported by the art teacher. Students also included historical background about the time period. All work went through peer critique and multiple drafts. The book was provided as a gift to each elder, with copies as well for students and the school.

How This Project Can Be Useful

  • Highlights the importance of capturing people’s stories – a living history – before they pass away
  • Makes history come alive
  • Shows an example of fostering inter-generational understanding and connection
  • Very appealing blend of text, photos and drawings
  • A product with an authentic audience – the people interviewed all received copies of the book
  • The format and product is quite simple and easy to produce
  • A product/project that can be replicated in any community
  • Combination of multiple student drawings and digital photographs of each interviewee provides compelling additions to the text
  • Provides an introduction that helps orient the reader

Relevant Resources

Common Core State Standards

Standard Long Term Learning Target
  • I can summarize a literary text.
  • I can write informative/explanatory texts that convey ideas and information clearly.
  • I can write narrative texts about real or imagined experiences using descriptive details and clearly sequenced events.
  • I can use several sources to build my knowledge about a topic.
  • I can choose evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection and research.
  • I can build on other’s ideas during discussions.
  • I can use grammar conventions to send a clear message to a reader or listener.
  • I can accurately use 5th grade academic vocabulary to express my ideas.
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