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Val-Kill was a very special place for Eleanor Roosevelt and for anyone who came to visit her. She gained personal growth and inspiration from the place as well as needed relaxation. Some of her greatest accomplishments came about in the later years of her life. The following activities highlight her interests in humanitarian efforts.

Activity 1: My Day
Almost every day for more than 25 years, Eleanor Roosevelt wrote a newspaper column she called "My Day." The column was started in 1936 to give readers a view of what a First Lady does during her day at the White House or wherever she may be traveling. Roosevelt wrote her column Sunday through Friday so every newspaper reader in the United States knew what she was doing or thinking on particular days.

Have students keep a personal journal every day for two weeks. Have them reflect on their place in the community and the world, and think about how much of their time is spent in community service or personal growth. At the end of the two weeks, have volunteer students share their thoughts with the class. Then ask the class to compare their own activities and thoughts about the world with what they have learned about Eleanor Roosevelt. Remind students that Roosevelt did not begin her column until she was in her forties. Ask if that would explain important differences between her thoughts and those of the students. Also, mention that Roosevelt knew she was writing for publication. How might that knowledge affect a person's writing?

Activity 2: The Declaration of Human Rights
Review with students the function of the United Nations. Then hold a classroom discussion in which students compare their lists of similarities and differences between the Declaration of Human Rights and the Bill of Rights. Now ask students to consider writing their own Declaration of Human Rights for their class or for the entire school. You might wish to break the class into groups to work on specific sections of the document. When the document is complete, have students provide copies to other classes, the student council, and the administration. If the document provokes controversy, have students discuss why and debate suggestions for change. Have them note that there were long, hard­fought arguments over both the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the American Bill of Rights. In the end, it was the resolution of those arguments that produced unparalleled statements of the rights of humans.

Activity 3: Local Volunteer Organizations
Eleanor Roosevelt volunteered much of her time to helping others, including hosting an annual picnic for the Wiltwyck School children. Most communities have volunteer organizations or local chapters of national organizations that help people who are in need. Ask students to make a list of the volunteer groups and programs in their community that are dedicated to helping others (Meals on Wheels, Big Brother/Sister programs, church groups, shelters, nursing home visits, etc.). Then, working in small groups, ask students to choose one organization or program and write an essay in which they address the following issues: purpose of the organization; how, when, and why it was founded; if it was started by an individual benefactor or a group of people; membership; facilities used by the organization; and benefits to the community. Discuss group essays. If the school has a community service program, ask students to consider volunteering a few hours of their time.

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