The Great Depression, The New Deal, & 2020: A 5th Grade Photography Project

The best projects start with a seed of an idea mentioned in an email or passing in the hallway. A few weeks ago, Ms. Olin, a 5th grade teacher, emailed me an idea about connecting 5th grade social studies standards to the current events of today. She wanted to possibly weave in photography or some type of multimedia project. I had to really brush up on my history. I pulled books about the dust bowl, the great depression, and the new deal hoping that something would spark an idea. In the current state of the world, I find it really hard to be creative because I can barely keep my head above water (evidenced by this blog post that is my only post in almost a year).

A few weeks passed, and Ms. Olin emailed me to see if I had anything put together. My head had still been swirling with thoughts but nothing had clicked together yet. I was on a time crunch, and just when I thought nothing would come together, I woke up one morning and picked up a book about the Migrant Mother photograph. I started wondering, what if we framed the whole project around the idea of “iconic photographs” and study one iconic photograph as our mentor text.

At the time, we were still 100% virtual with limited time for these standards. I decided to offer a lesson in 2 different ways: 1. A self-guided lesson via Wakelet 2. a whole grade level Zoom.

We opted to hold a grade level Zoom and use the Wakelet for students to reference as they worked on their projects or for students who were absent for our Zoom.

We began by looking at the Migrant Mother image.

In the chat, students wrote what they noticed about the picture as well as what they could learn about the people in the photograph. Next, I used our subscription to Capstone Connect to read from Migrant Mother: How a Photograph Defined the Great Depression. Capstone Connect gives schools full access to PebbleGo, PebbleGo Next, and Capstone Interactive Library as well as planning tools to search by standards and titles. I love that I can pull a direct link to a resource in any of these 3 databases and share it with students.

Once students had some background info on an iconic photo as well as how photographs can capture the past, we went through a series of slides to talk about how the events of the great depression can relate to events happening today. For example, during the great depression people lined up at soup kitchens for a meal during hard times. Today, people line up in cars at food distribution events or food banks as more people are unemployed due to COVID-19. I paired several photographs from the great depression with comparable photos of today as examples.

Lesson to setup the project

After this lesson, teachers offered Google slides templates for students to use to compare events of the great depression and today. Students could also choose to create their own slides or use a different tool for their project. They continued to use the Wakelet of resources to gather information and photographs for their projects.

Even though I couldn’t be a part of every moment of this project, I loved following along with what students were creating. Now, the projects are starting to pour in and they are amazing. I’ve sprinkled some throughout this post and put them all together on their own Wakelet. I’ll continue to add as projects come in.

The most amazing thing about projects like these is when people beyond our school take a look at the student work. I hope it inspires you. I hope it causes you to pause and reflect on how history repeats itself or how we learn from history. I hope you’ll also take a moment to leave a comment on this post to the students in general or to a specific student. I’ll be sure to share your voice with the students.

Enjoy.

Click here to view all student projects: https://wke.lt/w/s/inx7xl

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