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River Eves Students Get 'Hands-On' Depression-Era Experience

The "Hooverville" project teaches fifth graders about the Great Depression in a way they can relate to.

Fifth grade students at River Eves Elementary built a replica of a small “Hooverville” — named after President Herbert Hoover — during December to learn about the Great Depression and the challenges faced by our citizens during that time.

Students built shanties from cardboard boxes and duct tape, prepared homemade vegetable soup to serve in soup kitchens, and stood in bread lines. 

To learn how the stock market crash in 1929 deepened a devastating depression and affected the nation for nearly a decade, fifth graders re-enacted how many people used whatever means they had at their disposal for survival. As Americans were forced to build make-shift homes out of cardboard boxes, used car parts and wood, River Eves students were separated into small groups and worked together to build the best “standing” structure to house their “homeless” with duct tape and boxes. Students also learned how the 1930’s was the start of soup kitchens and bread lines. When not building shanties, the students stood in line to receive soup that they had made in class, and bread donated by local businesses.

During the simulation, each 5th grade class took turns reporting on what they had learned.

One fifth-grader remarked how although times were desperate, “Women were empowered to work more outside the home to support their families, which they hadn’t been able to do previously.” 

Another student noted, “It is very sad that people had to leave their homes and that they starved because their money was worthless. I hope that doesn’t happen to our country.” 

This is the second year that teacher Jennifer Roth, 5th grade teacher at River Eves, has conducted a Hooverville project.

“My philosophy with teaching is to create experiences for students so that their learning is meaningful,” said Roth. “I think the students were able to see a connection between the Depression of the 1930's and the recession of the 2000's. In class, we were able to discuss that history has a way of repeating itself and that it is sometimes crucial to learn from history so that it doesn't.”

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