Nurturing the Human Crop
Table of Contents
Museum Collections, Similar Items and other Materials Used
National Educational Standards
Student Learning Objectives
Background and Historical Context
Teacher Tips
Lesson Implementation Procedures
Evaluation/Assessment for Measurable Results
Extension and Enrichment Activities
Site Visit

A. Title: Nurturing the Human Crop
  • Developers: Laura Cohen and Jenn Kays, Prince William Forest Park
  • Grade Level: Grades 6 and up
  • Number of Sessions in the Lesson Unit Plan: Four 55 minutes sessons (Lesson 2 will take two class periods)
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B. Overview of this Collection-Based Lesson Unit Plan
  • Park Name:Prince William Forest Park
  • Description:
    Theme: This lesson unit plan demonstrates how museum objects can serve as primary sources for learning about the lives of Americans during the Great Depression and the impact of the CCC program on our country, our national parks, and Prince William Forest Park in particular. By building their own cabin camp, similar to those created by the CCC in Prince William Forest Park, students will have the opportunity to examine the purpose and goals of the Civilian Conservation Corps and compare the needs of the 1930s population to those of the present.

    Lesson 1: Alphabet Soup; orients students to two of the many government responses to the Great Depression - the Recreational Demonstrations Areas and the Civilian Conservation Corps [CCC] - through oral histories and a historic film.

    Lessons 2 & 3: Classroom Company “X”, allows students to form their own “public relief” group and build their own cabins using CCC tools and photos.

    Lesson 4: Camp “X”, students bring together their individual cabins to create a camp using historic photos from the collection to determine what features and other landscape components are necessary to meet the needs of the campers.

    Relevance: This lesson unit plan demonstrates how museum collections and historic photographs serve as primary sources for learning about the Prince William Forest Park CCC program, the enrollees, and the lives of Americans during the Great Depression. By designing and building their own cabin camp, similar to those created by the CCC in Prince William Forest Park, students will be able to examine why the camps were built the way they were and compare the needs of the population of the 1930s to the present.

  • Essential Question:
    • How do historic photographs and oral histories reflect Prince William Forest Park as a living testament to the New Deal programs that reshaped American land and society?
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C. Museum Collections, Similar Items and other Materials Used in this Lesson Unit Plan
MUSEUM OBJECT [photos of objects in the Carl Sandburg Home NHS museum collections] SIMILAR OBJECTS [local items similar to museum objects] & OTHER MATERIALS Length of time
Introduction and Warm Up “How to Read an Object”
An object that represents teacher’s personal heritage (examples: family bible, grandfather’s walking stick, etc

Contemporary diary, newspaper, letter, and family or self photo

Forms and Charts:


Lesson 1: Alphabet Soup

Similar Items:
55 minutes

Lesson 2 & 3:  Classroom Company “X”

Crafting a Cabin
Cabin Blueprint

Similar Items:

  • Replica hat
  • CCC photos or information from the internet

Other materials:

55 minutes
Lesson 4: Camp “X”

Similar Items:


55 minutes
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D. National Educational Standards
US History: NSS-USH.5-12.8 era 8: The Great Depression and World War II (1929-1945)
  • Understands the causes of the Great Depression and how it affected American society
  • Understands how the New Deal addressed the Great Depression, transformed American federalism, and initiated the welfare state

Fine Art: NA-VA.5-8.2 Using knowledge of structures and functions
  • Students generalize about the effects of visual structures and functions and reflect upon these effects in their own work
  • Students employ organizational structures and analyze what makes them effective or not effective in the communication of ideas
  • Students select and use the qualities of structures and functions of art to improve communication of their ideas

Language Arts:
  • NL-ENG.K-12.4 Communication Skills: Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes
  • NL-ENG.K.12.7 Evaluating Data: Students conduct research on issues and interests by generating ideas and questions, and by posing problems. They gather, evaluate, and synthesize data from a variety of sources (e.g., print and nonprint texts, artifacts, people) to communicate their discoveries in ways that suit their purpose and audience.
  • NL-ENG.K-12.12 Applying Language Skills: Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).

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E. Student Learning Objectives
Lesson 1 – Alphabet Soup
    • After this lesson, students will be able to critically analyze oral history and historic films to find relevant connections to life in the past.
    • Students will be able to use the analysis of the oral history and historic films to develop a base of knowledge about the Great Depression and the need for the Civilian Conservation Corps and the Recreational Demonstration Area.
    • After this lesson, students will understand the connection between the suffering of the children during the Great Depression and the building of the camps.

    Lesson 2 and 3 – Company “X”

    • After this lesson, students will have developed an understanding of the work conducted by CCC boys, the camaraderie that developed in the camps, and the importance of team work in accomplishing tasks.
    • Students will understand that groups and organizations have symbols and uniforms such as the CCC logo and hat.
    • After this lesson, students will understand the connection between architecture and the use of the cabins.

    Lesson 4 – Camp “X”

    • Students will understand how the layout and features of the cabin camps met the needs of children during the great depression.
    • After this lesson, students will make lasting connections between their lives today and the children of the Great Depression.
    • After this lesson, students will understand how Prince William Forest Park serves as a testament to the New Deal programs.
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F. Background and Historical Context
Prince William Forest Park is an oasis of natural beauty and human history located 35 miles south of Washington, DC. Over 37 miles of hiking trails and 21 miles of bicycle-accessible roads and trails traverse this 15,000 acre piedmont forest. Beneath its canopy lies evidence of human history reaching back to 8,000 B.C.  Prince William Forest Park protects the largest piedmont forest in the National Park Service and the largest green space in the Washington, DC metropolitan region.  This park gives area residents and visitors a unique opportunity to immerse themselves in an abundance of natural features, ecosystems, flora, and fauna.  The park provides a needed refuge for wildlife populations in the area. The park covers two physiographic provinces and lies in a transition zone between northern and southern climates, resulting in diverse habitats that can support healthy breeding populations of numerous animal species. Current inventory data includes 38 species of mammals, 24 species of amphibians, 27 species of reptiles, 100+ species of birds, 23 species of fish, and an unknown number of invertebrates. Several studies have uncovered a few state rare or threatened species, as well as species of special concern. Threats to wildlife in the park include poaching, development, and direct habitat loss and alteration.

The park contains a wide array of plant species. There are at least two distinct types of forest ecosystems in the upland areas of the park. On the ridges and upper slopes is a mixed oak forest, and on the lower slopes, above the floodplain, is a mesic hardwood forest. Beeches, which are found in this area, require undisturbed interior environments for their best development into a forest. Some uncommon or rare tree species are interspersed, including butternut, big tooth aspen, black walnut, swamp white oak, and cottonwood, as well as floodplain species like American beech, box elder, and sycamore. Several of these species are at their distributional limits in the park, attesting to the fact that the park is in a transition zone between northern and southern climates and between eastern and western physiographic provinces. The park contains several rare communities, including a seepage swamp, remote stands of eastern hemlock, and several populations of rare plants. As surveys are conducted, other rare communities may be located in the park. Understory trees and vegetation, including dogwood, redbud, ironwood, mountain laurel, American holly, Solomon's seal, spotted wintergreen, and sassafras, are found throughout the forest. Ferns, mosses, vines, briers, and numerous wildflowers form the groundcover. Cardinal flower and Hercules club are common in the park, although uncommon and protected elsewhere. The small-whorled pogonia, a federally listed threatened species, has been identified in the park. Because of its rarity, specialized habitat criteria, and proximity to developed areas, the management of this species is critical to ensure its continued survival.

Places hold power - and this is especially true in Prince William Forest Park.   Generations of people were here before the park including Native Americans and early park farm families. African Americans and National Park Service planners shaped the park landscape and development along with the boys of the Civilian Conservation Corps, who built the cabin camps and Office of Strategic Services trainees who used them. Here, the forest has erased much of what was visible here before. The towns of Hickory Ridge, Batestown, and Joplin were absorbed through the creation of the park along with the sites of the Cabin Branch Pyrite Mine or the Poor House, two historically important sites located in Prince William Forest Park. There are over 150 historic structures in Prince William Forest Park. There are also historic bridges and other infrastructure along with the thousands of important stories that should not be lost to time.

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G. Vocabulary

Oral Histories – recordings of historical information, based on the personal experiences and opinions of the speaker
Branding Iron - a tool used to imprint, usually through burning, letters onto CCC made objects.
Civilian Conservation Corps- a jobs program by the federal government, beginning in 1933, to provide work for young men while providing workers to do public works projects to benefit the country.
Company– a group of 200 men assigned to a particular Civilian Conservation Corps work area.
Enrollee- one of the young men employed by the CCC; they learned skills, accomplished jobs, and earned $1/day.
Great Depression - the period of history following the Stock Market Crash of 1929 in which the bottom had dropped out of the economy in the US and elsewhere, and millions of people were unemployed.
New Deal – a series of public relief programs created by the FDR administration such as the CCC, WPA, FSA, FDIC.
Overseas Cap- a wool, folded hat used in the later parts of the Civilian Conservation Corps as part of their formal uniform. It would be most identified with World War II soldiers in later years.
Recreational Demonstration Areas– 46 areas developed around the country to bring outdoor recreation to urban populations.  Program areas needed to be over 2,000 acres and located near major population centers.
Rustic Design – an architectural style that aims for buildings to blend into the landscape, not sit atop it.  Materials used in construction often come from the landscape itself including wood and stone.
Blueprint - a process of photographic printing, used chiefly in copying architectural and mechanical drawings, which produces a white line on a blue background.
Chopawamsic-  Algonquin word meaning “isolated lodge” and the name of the Recreation Demonstration project that eventually became Prince William Forest Park.

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H. Teacher Tips
  • Download and laminate prints of the museum objects used in the lesson unit plan
  • Building the cabins and the camp activities may take longer than specified – adapt to class times.  It would work best if lessons are done sequentially.
  • Use online collections; objects, documents, maps, and photographs to further student inquiry and to address student learning objectives.
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I. Lesson Implementation Procedures

Introduction and Warm Up “How to Read an Object”

Tell students they will be using an object from the National Park Service site as a source of learning and information.  Explain that they will learn to look very closely at a park museum object to deduce historical, cultural and social information and to draw inferences about people, events, and life then and now.  Ask questions that draw on observational skills and powers of deduction, inference, and creativity in this introductory lesson. 

Do the following with the students:

  • Pose an overarching or essential question that will guide student interactive learning and research.  Post the question on a large banner at the front of the classroom.
  • Identify a museum object.  Print out the image of the museum object. 
  • Find a similar object locally. 
  • Divide class into small groups; one set/group analyzes the photograph of the museum object, and the other analyzes the local object set/group using a ‘How to Read an Object” chart.  This introduces students to the inquiry method as they discuss history, material, size, date, function, maker/manufacturer, place of origin, function and use, cultural significance of the selected object. It also engages students and introduces them to the idea of learning through museum collections. 
  • Have groups write up their responses on the How to Read an Object chart and compare their responses.
  • Record their preliminary answers to the “banner” question.  Then ask students what additional questions they want to pursue after handling objects, specimens and photographs.
  • Groups can develop a contextual narrative that relates the object to the lesson theme.

Lesson 1: Alphabet Soup

Activity 1 – Reading and Discussion
  • Begin the lesson with a brief discussion about the Great Depression.  Set the stage to 1933 when Franklin Delano Roosevelt [FDR] was elected President and provide statistics that reflect the state of the nation at that time – i.e., how many people were out of work, the percentage of farms that went under, what low productivity does to a nation – low morale. 
  • Tell students that out of the New Deal came two very important programs (CCC and WPA) that created Prince William Forest Park – then called the Chopawamsic Recreation Demonstration Area.
  • Discuss the relief programs that the New Deal created such as the WPA, TVA, FERA, CCC – called the alphabet soup and how they aimed to help American citizens.
  • Use ‘Great Depression Math” worksheet provided to relate Great Depression data and statistics to the needs of children similar in ages to your current students.
  • Ask students how they think the great depression affected different people:
    • rural populations  versus urban populations;
    • children versus adults;
    • rich versus poor;
    • African American versus Caucasian

Activity 2 – Watch Film
  • Show students The Human Crop, a film made by the Department of the Interior to promote the idea of the Recreation Demonstration Areas and focuses on Chopawamsic.  Have them pay special attention to the children in the film, the people building the camps, and what the camps had to offer.

Activity 3 – Read Washington Post Article and Reflect Activity 4 – CCC discussion and Joe Hebda’s Oral History
  • Talk about the CCC, touching on how they were arranged by companies and were assigned to places all around the United States to improve and create parks and other public lands as well as recreational facilities. They were identified with their own logo and their own uniforms. For examples, view the Civilian Conservation Corps section of the online museum exhibit for photos and uniform examples.
  • Hand out photo of company 2349 with Joe Hebda standing in the back and explain that it is a photo of one of three CCC companies that built the cabins at Chopawamsic.
  • Read sections of Joe Hebda’s oral history and have students write down observations on his personal story regarding the great depression, how he ended up in the CCCs, what his job was as a CCC enrollee, and what the guys would do for fun. 

Lesson 2 and 3: Company “X” 

Activity 1 – Creating a Company
  • Continue the CCC discussion from the previous class. Students can read the park Civilian Conservation Corps site bulletin (provided), which describes the organization and administration of the companies, and daily life of the enrollees.  Attention should be paid to the following conclusions:
    • The CCC camps were run by the Army, complete with uniforms, a strict daily schedule, an education program, and ranking of officers.
    • In contrast, the CCC camps left room for fun outings to local towns for movies and dances, and a great bond of brotherhood was established between enrollees.
  • Divide class into pairs or groups of four depending on class size. (You want enough buildings to make a substantial camp and to show how much was necessary to address the needs of campers.)
  • Hand out photos of each the following items from the collection to each pair of students:
  • PRWI #712 – Photograph - “Crafting a Cabin”
    PRWI #834 – Photograph “Building a Dream”
    PRWI #3293 - Cabin Blueprint
    PRWI # 681- Branding Iron
    PRWI # 705 - CCC Dress Uniform Hat
    PRWI #13450 - Cross Cut Saw
    PRWI #7582 – Shovel
  • Tell the students that they are going to form their own company, just like the one in the photo of Company 2349.
  • Have students make their own hats (, or purchase overseas caps and have students make their own logo/patch for their company to pin on hat.
  • Ask students to collaboratively come up with a company name – something that reflects the group as a whole.  Hold a vote and decide on a good name.  They are now Company “X.”
  • Have students collaboratively come up with a Company logo that they can use to identify themselves. 

Activity 2:  Gathering Tools
  • Show students three of the very important tools that the CCC boys used at Chopawamsic – the branding iron, the shovel, and the cross-cut saw.
  •  Ask them what each tool would have been used for.  Ask students where they think the CCC boys would have gotten all of their materials to build the camps. (i.e., the store as opposed to using native materials such as wood and stone.) What other types of tools would they have used?
  • Tell the students (Company “X”) that they are going to be like the CCC boys at Chopawamsic and design and build cabins for underprivileged children from the city. Use their answers on their Lesson 1 worksheet as guidance for building their own camps.
  • Provide them with their own “tools”
  • Discuss “rustic architecture” and the fact that the National Park Service has strict standards to adhere to when it comes to designing camps.  Use examples from the National Park Service Parks and Structures Report (provided) for guidance.
  • Have students think about and come up with buildings that are vital to the success of a camp.  Do the kids need somewhere to eat, sleep, and play on rainy days?  What about a medical building or a restroom? 
  • Have students identify which type of building they would like to construct.  Have the group come together as Company X (do they have an offier? Supply clerk?) to decide which teams will build which types of buildings (i.e. craft lodge, mess hall etc…)

Activity 3: Designing a Cabin Camp (Design a model of own camp in classroom)
  • Break the students into pairs or small groups to begin designing their individual structures.  Have students decide how big or small their cabin will be based on its function – how many people it will sleep.  Remind students of the main tenants of the “rustic architecture” (i.e. - working with what they have available) and that they must keep in mind the needs of the incoming campers.
  • Tell them that they will all be coming together as a company to complete their camp and to add features that will make it all the more meaningful and exciting for the campers.
  • Have students do a sketch or blueprint of their idea.  Refer them to the blueprint (PRWI #3293) from the collection. If time allows, bring students back together to present their design concepts to the rest of the company.  Are they missing any buildings? Have any camp needs been forgotten?

Activity 4: Building Structures (Create model of own camp in the classroom)
  • As students are building their cabins – perhaps have The Human Crop playing in the background as a reference point.
  • Visit www. To find instructions on building cabins.
  • Build away!

Activity 5: Reflection and Sharing
  • Once the cabins are complete, have each pair or group share what they did and how they worked together as a team. Did they have different or similar ideas?
  • Have them explain in detail what kind of cabin they made, what the planned use for it is, how they constructed it and how they envision it functioning in the grand scheme of the camp.
  • Ask the students how watching the films and reading the articles helped guide them in their design and construction efforts.

Lesson 4: Camp “X”

Activity 1: Coming Together
Activity 2: Constructing the Camp
  • Once all of the features/personnel have been decided on, have students discuss the layout of the camp. (How the lakes, fields, buildings, etc should be arranged for optimal experience.)
  • Think about the effectiveness of the layout, referring to the National Park Service Parks and Structures report on cabin camp arrangement.
  • Have students create lakes, fields and other features using construction paper of appropriate colors.  They could even build their own fire rings and wooded areas as well as figures that would represent the camp staff.
  • Make a blueprint or drawing on the board/chart to reflect the students’ ideas. 
  • Have students start to place the pieces together on a large area of the classroom floor or on tables to most accurately reflect their design.

Activity 3 - Naming the Cabin Camp
  • Tell students that now that the camp is complete, it needs a name.
  • The name of the camp can reflect the company that built it, the purpose of it, or its design.
  • Give some examples of camp names such as the ones currently in the park: Camps Happyland, Mawavi, Goodwill, Orenda, and Pleasant. 
  • Have students give their ideas and have a vote on it. 
  • You could take this activity one step further by having students come up with lists of activities for the campers to take part in – drawing from the Human Crop and the historic photos of the kids in camp.

Wrap Up Activity and Discussion

  • If possible, take a picture of the student ‘Company’ and their constructed cabin camp and mail or e-mail to the park at  If permission is granted, the park can post the photo on its website or perhaps, if the school is within driving distance, visit the school to view the camp personally.
  • Have students view the NBC4 “News 4 Camp 4 Kids” website and reflect on the state of children in nature today. 
  • Teachers can read about the so-called Nature Deficit Disorder, a term coined by Richard Louv in his 2005 book Last Child in the Woods, refers to the alleged trend that children are spending less time outdoors, resulting in a wide range of behavioral problems. Ask the children how much time they spend in the outdoors today versus on video games or watching TV?  Do the students feel that there is a need for outdoor, unstructured play time? Does your school still have recess?  What lessons can we draw from the ideas expressed at Chopawamsic Recreational Demonstration Area in the 1930s?
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J. Evaluation/Assessment for Measurable Results
  • Reflection Worksheets
  • Blueprints
  • Constructed Cabin Camp
  • Great Depression Math Worksheet
  • How to read an object chart
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K. Extension and Enrichment Activities
  • Visit Prince William Forest Park for a cabin camp tour
  • Visit Prince William Forest Park website
  • Visit Prince William Forest Park online museum collection for more CCC and summer camp related objects
  • Visit other parks (state, national, and local) that have CCC construction
  • Watch Great Depression era movies such as
    • Grapes of Wrath
    • Journey of Natty Gan
    • Shirley Temple movies
    • Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
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L. Resources
Maintain an updated of the references such as books, materials and sources you use in developing the lesson to include in the resources section:   These include the following:
  • Bibliography
    • Park and Recreation Structures by Albert H. Good.
    • Capital's Poor Folk To Go Camping Soon.  The Washington Post, Apr 19, 1936.
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M. Site Visit

Visiting the Site
Prince William Forest Park, a unit of the National Park Service, is located in Triangle, Virginia, off of VA-route 619, only 35 miles south of Washington, DC.  The park is open year round during daylight hours.  The visitor center is open all year 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., except the Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s holidays.  Chopawamsic cabins are available for rental.  For more information, visit the

Arranging for a Camp Tour
Rangers are available year round to provide interpretive tours of any of the park’s 5 cabin camps.  To request a program, visit the park website at and click on the For Teachers link.  There you will find a list of programs that you can choose from.  You will also find a ‘Special Program Request’ form. 
Fill out the Special Program Request form and mail or fax it to the park to begin the reservation process.  You can mail the form to:
Prince William Forest Park
c/o Education Coordinator
18100 Park Headquarters Road
Triangle, VA 22172

Visiting a Site in Your Area
Find a local park with CCC history in your area.  Visiting sites such as these will bring to life many of the important lessons that your students have learned from this lesson plan.  While at these parks, see if you can speak with a park ranger or local historian who can bring your local CC history to life.

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