K-12 Teaching and Learning From the UNC School of Education


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cover piece of a 4-H pamphlet on a gardening drive during World War II

(North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service. 4-H Youth Development. 1943. Provided by the Green 'N' Growing collection at the North Carolina State University Libraries Special Collections Research Center. More about the illustration)

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Secondary students will analyze a variety of primary source textual materials from North Carolina provided by the Green ‘N’ Growing collection at the Special Collections Research Center, North Carolina State University Library. They will investigate how rural young people were encouraged to support the war effort during World War II. This lesson uses an inquiry question to allow students to build their own understanding of what it was like during the war years in North Carolina and how 4-H Clubs encouraged students to choose projects with the war effort in mind. This lesson should be taught before the end of a World War II unit and before students have discussed the war at home.

Learning outcomes

Students will:

  • examine, analyze, and interpret primary sources
  • answer an inquiry question
  • evaluate how the lives of children and young adults in North Carolina were affected by World War II
  • develop historical empathy as they put themselves in the roles of students during the 1940s
  • work cooperatively in groups/come to group consensus

Teacher planning

Time required for lesson

One and a half class periods


Technology resources

overhead projector or another form of presentation


This activity should be completed during a unit on World War II. It is important that students have not already studied life on the home front before doing this lesson.

The teacher needs to make copies of the following textual material from the Green ‘N’ Growing collection at the Special Collections Research Center, North Carolina State University Library.

Make the required copies of the following textual material.

To access the textual material and see other texts:

  1. Go to the Green ‘N’ Growing collection.
  2. Click on the Browse by Subject section on the bottom of the page.
  3. All of the textual material is found in the subject World War, 1939–1945 — North Carolina.


Activity one

Preview (5–8 minutes)

  1. Recognizing that this may be a sensitive issue, ask the students how we in North Carolina have been and continue to be affected by the War on Terror. Put the list on the board or chart paper. Some answers will probably include friends and relatives who are in Iraq and Afghanistan, writing letters to soldiers, and news reports. Some students may know someone who has been wounded or killed as a result of their service. Acknowledge that all these answers are important to those who are affected.
  2. Now ask them to imagine how World War II might have affected North Carolinians. Again, write these on the board or chart. Students will most likely begin with some of the same answers. Through continuing probing questions, lead the students to include more effects, but don’t discuss whether the students are correct or not. Examples of questions: Which war (War on Terror or World War II) had more soldiers serving? Do you think that World War II affected the availability of supplies in North Carolina? What are some examples of that? How did the war affect the economy?
  3. The students should have built a curiosity as well as a working list of the effect on life on the home front during World War II.


  1. Put the students into groups of 5.
  2. Ask students if they have ever heard of the 4-H Club. Some students may be members of the group. Allow a couple of them to share about their experience as a 4-H member. If no student knows about 4-H, explain that it is a club for rural children and young people that has been around since the beginning of the twentieth century.
  3. Put the transparency of the first page of the 4-H pamphlet “4-H for Security On The Homefront” on the overhead. Ask the following questions:
    • What does the symbol at the top left mean? (Head, hands, heart, health are the four Hs. The clover shape symbolizes good luck and achievement.)
    • What important information is included on this page? (students should see the words ‘Homefront’ and ‘Security.’ If someone does not notice the date — August 1944 — lead them to see this.)
    • What is so significant about the date of this pamphlet? (World War II was still going on.)
  4. Put the following inquiry question on the board or overhead: How did 4-H Clubs encourage young people to support the war effort?
  5. Give each group two copies of the second page of the pamphlet “4-H for Security On The Homefront,” with the heading “Your Parent Should Know.” Have students read this to get background on 4-H Clubs.
  6. Give each group a copy of the brainstorming sheet.
  7. Ask each group to take a few minutes to brainstorm ways that these club members could support the war effort. After they have listed several, have them choose what they consider the best three.
  8. Put a blank transparency sheet on the overhead and have a member of each group share their three best ideas. It is fine if the last groups repeat some ideas that have already been mentioned by other groups.
  9. Now give each group two copies of the “Requirements for completing project offered in 4-H club work,” which is page four of the pamphlet “4-H for Security On The Homefront.” Have each group decide which of the projects they believe would best support the war effort and rank them 1 through 3. They should indicate why they believe these would be the most effective. Each group must come to a group consensus.
  10. Tell the class that they must come up with a class consensus. Each group should share their ideas with the whole class and be prepared to defend their ranking. Allow class discussion so that students can come up with a class decision on what might have been the best projects to support the war effort. Have them explain their reasoning.


  1. Tell the students to imagine that they are living in 1944. In what ways would they choose to help the war effort? These can be ideas that were discussed in class or they could include some others that occurred to them during the lesson. Which of the 4-H projects would they most like to complete?
  2. Have students write a letter to a family member who is fighting in World War II, explaining how they are doing their part at home.
  3. Remind the students that in 1944 the war was still going on. Young people at the time did not how the war was going to end. This important historical skill is often difficult for students to grasp.

Activity two


  1. Ask a few of the students to share portions of their homework assignment.
  2. Have students share how successful they felt they were in assuming the character of someone who didn’t know the end of the war. Was it difficult?


  1. Put students back into their groups (or you could choose to make new groups).
  2. Put the inquiry transparency back on the overhead.
  3. Ask the students to review the inquiry question. What are some of the answers they hypothesized from yesterday’s discussion and the homework assignment? Talk within the group and then share some of their ideas in a short class discussion.
  4. Explain that now the students will analyze some actual documents that will help them to learn some specific ways the 4-H encouraged members to support the war effort.
  5. Give each group one of the primary sources and analysis sheets that were prepared ahead of time (see pre-activities). Give them up to 15 minutes to investigate their source material and fill in the analysis sheet.
  6. Have each group report to the class about their source and explain how it helped to answer the inquiry question.
  7. For the final component of this lesson, share with the students the results of the 1943 “Feed a Fighter” program. Put up the transparency of “Winners in North Carolina Feed a Fighter Program.” Read with the students the first, second, and last paragraph. Discuss with students the transparency.
  8. Have the students write responses to the following (or you may discuss instead):
    • Do you believe the 4-H Clubs made a positive impact in the war effort during World War II?
    • Why do you think it was important to involve the young people in the war effort?
    • Support your ideas with specific examples.


  • Assessment will be from teacher observation of student discussion and understanding.
  • Students will also complete a brainstorming sheet in groups and should be able to articulate at least three ways that the 4-H Clubs of North Carolina supported the war effort during World War II.
  • Students will also complete a homework assignment that addresses the skill of historical empathy. Students should list several ways in which they would help. An important component of this assignment is that they write as if they do not know the outcome of the war.
  • For the second activity, groups will complete a document analysis sheet. The teacher should observe student understanding from the class and group discussions.
  • The final writing can be done in a journal-style assignment or a short essay.

Extension activities

This lesson can be used in conjunction with the lesson Effects of Civil Action, another lesson about 4-H Clubs on the home front during World War II.


This lesson is a cooperative learning activity and involves active learning so all students should be included. Students who have difficulty reading should be put into groups with stronger readers.

Critical vocabulary

4-H club
A youth organization administered by the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service of the United States Department of Agriculture, with the goal of developing citizenship, leadership, and life skills through experiential learning programs. 4-H began as an agriculturally focused organization, but today focuses on citizenship, healthy living, and science, engineering, and technology programs.
Extension workers
People who worked for land grant colleges and universities to improve life and bring information to rural people
Home front
Name for the home country during a time of war. During World War II, life in the United States was greatly affected.

  • North Carolina Essential Standards
    • Social Studies (2010)
      • Grade 8

        • 8.H.2 Understand the ways in which conflict, compromise and negotiation have shaped North Carolina and the United States. 8.H.2.1 Explain the impact of economic, political, social, and military conflicts (e.g. war, slavery, states’ rights and citizenship...
      • United States History II

        • USH.H.4 Analyze how conflict and compromise have shaped politics, economics and culture in the United States. USH.H.4.1 Analyze the political issues and conflicts that impacted the United States since Reconstruction and the compromises that resulted (e.g.,...

North Carolina curriculum alignment

Social Studies (2003)

Grade 11–12 — United States History

  • Goal 10: World War II and the Beginning of the Cold War (1930s-1963) - The learner will analyze United States involvement in World War II and the war's influence on international affairs in following decades.
    • Objective 10.03: Describe and analyze the effects of the war on American economic, social, political, and cultural life.

Grade 8

  • Goal 6: The learner will analyze the immediate and long-term effects of the Great Depression and World War II on North Carolina.
    • Objective 6.04: Assess the impact of World War II on the economic, political, social, and military roles of different groups in North Carolina including women and minorities.