Teach PA History
Conserving Pennsylvania Resources: New Deal Programs
What to Know
Teaching Time
2 50 minute sessions
Grade Level
High School
  • Arts and Humanities
  • Civics and Government
  • Economics
  • Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening
  • History
Historical Period
  • The Great Depression and World War II - 1929-1945
  • Contemporary Pennsylvania - 1975 to Present
The legacy of Great Depression programs are all around us. How many times have you visited a state or national park and stayed in a cabin, walked a trail, or had a picnic in a recreation area built by the Civilian Conservation Corps? Between 1933 and 1941, almost 200,000 men labored in 114 CCC camps in backwoods areas across Pennsylvania. ( Great Depression Story, Chapter 3) These thousands of young men fought fires, planted millions of trees, surveyed areas, leveled roads, cleared brush, lifted rocks, operated construction equipment, learned new skills, and generally worked to conserve the natural resources of our state. But the Civilian Conservation Corps was not the only New Deal program conserving natural resources. As the State Director of the Federal Art Project, Richard Hood, points out, "…more than anything, we were very much interested in preserving natural resources in this country, and our skills are certainly one of these resources. It [the Federal Art Project] preserved the artists' skills during a period when they could not otherwise have been preserved, and in a sense, . . . it was tremendously valuable for what happened in the 1950's." In the 1950s, Hood continues to describe, this country experienced a period of art revival or renaissance and became the world's epicenter for a style of painting called abstract expressionism. The Federal Art Project not only preserved artist's skills, it proved a fertile, creative environment for new styles and methods of art. A new process of printing called carborundum printing was produced during this time, and Philadelphia's Dox Thrash created a number of beautiful examples of this process. Other artists employed under the program created murals of area history (rural, labor, technological, etc.) which we can still see in schools, courthouses, and post offices across the country. In addition, thousands of public service WPA posters were produced, a large collection of which is currently available at the Library of Congress. Many times, however, we benefit from the tangible legacies of the New Deal programs without being aware of its creator. This high-school lesson is designed to examine the two New Deal programs mentioned above–the Civilian Conservation Corps and the Federal Art Project–so that students may have an awareness and appreciation of their legacies. After garnering this knowledge, they will write a thank-you letter to the program director/creator specifying the legacies of the program and outlining the ways in which they will continue to preserve them.


Students will be able to: 1. Analyze artifacts of the Great Depression Era. 2. Gain an understanding of two New Deal programs and their legacies in Pennsylvania. 3. Reflect on how they will continue to preserve the legacies of these programs. 4. Relate these programs to the preservation of national resources in danger today. 5. Synthesize knowledge in creative writing assignment.

Standards Alignment

  • Arts and Humanities

    9.2.12. A. Explain the historical, cultural, and social context of an individual work in the arts.
    9.2.12. D Analyze a work of art from its historical and cultural perspective.
    9.2.12. E. Analyze how historical events and culture impact forms, techniques, and purposes of works in the arts.
    9.2.12. H. Identify, explain, and analyze the work of Pennsylvania Artists in visual arts.

  • Economics

    6.3.12. A. Analyze actions taken as a result of scarcity issues in the regional, national and international economies.

  • History

    8.1.9. B. Analyze and interpret historical sources.
    8.2.12. A. Evaluate the political and cultural contributions of individuals and groups to Pennsylvania history from 1890 to Present.
    8.2.12. B. Identify and evaluate primary documents, material artifacts, and historic sites important in Pennsylvania history from 1890 to Present.
    8.2.12. C. Identify and evaluate how continuity and change have influenced Pennsylvania history.
    8.3.12. C. Evaluate how continuity and change has influenced United States history from 1890 to Present.

  • Reading, Writing, Speaking, and Listening

    1.1.11 G. Demonstrate after reading understanding and interpretation of both fiction and nonfiction text, including public documents.
    1.2.11. A. Read and understand essential content of informational texts and documents in all academic areas.
    1.4.11. B. Write complex informational pieces.
    1.5.11. A. Write with a sharp, distinct focus.
    1.5.11. B. Write using well-developed content appropriate for the topic.
    1.5.11. C. Write with controlled and/or subtle organization.
    1.5.11. D. Write with a command of the stylistic aspects of composition
    1.6.11. A. Listen to others.
    1.6.11. D. Contribute to discussions.

Back to Top