Helping Students Remember all of those New Deal Agencies

When I taught United States history to middle schoolers, my fellow teachers and I grappled with figuring out how to teach the New Deal. We wanted to create lessons to help our students get a handle on all of the New Deal agencies that were created in response to the Great Depression—and in the limited amount of time we had to teach this topic. A fun interactive from the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library just might help the details of the New Deal stick in students’ memories!

Chemists use the periodic table of the elements to classify, systematize and compare all of the many forms of chemical behavior. The FDR Library devised an Interactive Periodic Table of the New Deal to serve the same function for the study of New Deal history.

Periodic Table of the New Deal

Students pretty readily grasp that the New Deal was the name given to President Roosevelt’s package of economic programs developed to combat the Great Depression in the 1930s. But graphically organizing the information and giving students the chance to interact with it in a tactile way may help them understand—and remember—these important elements of American history in more detail.

The table presents major programs, players and events surrounding the New Deal. Just like the real periodic table, it organizes related New Deal elements together and uses colors to show that connection. A key in the upper right explains that dark blue boxes are agencies created during the New Deal.

Hovering your cursor over an item in the table, the TVA for example, enlarges it to show details such as the full title, beginning and end dates, and a brief description of the program.

TVA box for the Tennessee Valley Authority, begun in 1933. TVA set out to transform the disadvantaged areas of the Tennessee Valley. Its goals included soil conservation,  health services for farmers, removing poor land from use, & supplying hydro-electric power.

The table is designed to be used in a number of ways: as a visual depiction of the complexity and scope of these events, as a way to introduce students to specific players and events, or as comprehensive list from which teachers and students can select a topic for further in-depth investigation.

In addition to using the interactive version online, you can download the large printable version or contact the education specialist at the FDR Library to obtain the animated table on disc, or to order a large-format, full-color poster.

The FDR Library creates and conducts educational programs for K-12, college and university students; teachers; adult learners; and the general public based on the Library’s documentary, audio-visual, and art and artifact collections.

Please share other effective ways that you’ve found for teaching about New Deal agencies in a comment below!

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