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


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black and white photo of 4-H boys and girls holding their posters

(Provided by the Green 'N' Growing Collection (The History of Home Demonstration and 4-H Youth Development in North Carolina), Special Collections, North Carolina State University Libraries. More about the photograph)

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Related pages

  • Feed a fighter: In this lesson students will examine “Additional Helps for the 4-H Mobilization for Victory Program,” a Cooperative Extension Work document from the Green 'N' Growing collection at Special Collections Research Center at North Carolina State University Libraries. The document will help students understand the efforts civilians underwent to support military efforts in World War II.
  • World War II at home: Victory Gardens: Students will learn about home front activities during World War II. Using primary source documents and photographs, students will discover how children their own age participated by growing Victory Gardens. They will design their own gardens and propaganda posters.
  • Canning for country and community: In this lesson plan, students will use primary source documents to evaluate the technological challenges of food preservation in the 30s and 40s, compare food preservation in the first half of the twentieth century with today, and consider the political role of food in the community.

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Secondary students will analyze primary source textual material from North Carolina located in the Green ‘N’ Growing collection from the Special Collections Research Center at North Carolina State University Library. They will investigate how 4-H clubs made an impact on the home front in completing projects that supported the war effort during World War II. This lesson should be taught at the end of a World War II unit.

Learning outcomes

Students will:

  • examine, analyze, and interpret primary sources
  • work with a map of North Carolina
  • evaluate how the lives of North Carolinians were affected by World War II
  • work cooperatively in groups
  • investigate past examples of active citizenship

Teacher planning

Time required for lesson

One class period


  • chalkboard, white board, or chart paper
  • one copy of a North Carolina outline map with counties for each group of five
  • copies and/or transparencies from the Green ‘N’ Growing site as listed below in the Pre-activities section
  • manila envelopes or folders
  • five copies of the county analysis for each group
  • highlighters or colored pencils
  • optional: a document analysis sheet for each student

Technology resources

  • overhead projector or other method of presentation
  • computer to show websites with the ability to be hooked to a LCD or smartboard, or students can have computers in groups or a computer lab


This activity should be completed after or at the end of a unit on World War II.

The teacher should make a transparency of the first page of the Summary of 4-H club work since Pearl Harbor Day (in Wake County) from the Green ‘N’ Growing collection from the Special Collections Research Center at North Carolina State University Library.

Make one packet for each group of five students using the following reports. Put them into folders or large manila envelopes along with a North Carolina county map and the three county analysis sheets.

If you are doing the extension activity, you will also need enough copies of the Analysis of 4-H clubwork 1942 (scroll down to number 7) for each group. Do not put in the packet.

To access the textual material on your own and explore the other texts:

  1. Go to the Green ‘N’ Growing website.
  2. Click on the Browse by Subject section on the bottom of the page.
    All of the textual material used in this lesson can be found under the subject World War, 1939–1945 — North Carolina.



  1. Ask the students, “Can an individual make a difference in a school or a society?”
  2. Have a short discussion about how difficult it can be for an individual to make a change in a larger institution such as a school or a society. Explore reasons why this is.
  3. Have the students take out their journals or a sheet of notebook paper.
  4. Give the following prompt: Think about an individual who was able to make a positive impact on society. Write a paragraph about what they did and how they made a difference.
  5. Ask a few students to share their journal entry.


  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 was a club for rural children and young people. You may have them look at the 4-H website to get a better feel for the program.
  3. Tell the students, During World War II, 4-H encouraged students to do projects and participate in activities to help with the war effort on the home front. Today we will be examining primary source materials to learn about the kind of work that 4-H club members did and whether you believe the young people made a difference.
  4. Put up the transparency of the first page from the Summary of 4-H Club Work since Pearl Harbor. Ask the following questions:
    • What is this source? (a letter)
    • Who is this letter addressed to? What is his title? (Mr. Harrill, State 4-H Club Leader)
    • What does this indicate Mr. Harrill was requesting? (He wanted a report about what the clubs did for the war effort during World War II.)
    • Why do you imagine he wanted this information? (Answers will vary, but students may infer that he wanted to do a report to indicate what 4-H clubs in North Carolina did for the war effort.)
  5. Explain that the students will now look at several replies to Mr. Harrill’s request to investigate how 4-H club members responded to help on the home front during the war.
  6. Give each group one packet that you made up as per the instructions in the Pre-activities section.
  7. There are five documents per packet, so in each group every student will take a turn filling in a document analysis sheet.
  8. The students need to highlight or color in the counties that are represented by the letters on the map of North Carolina.
  9. Ask the students to then make a list of the kinds of activities and the amounts that they produced during the war years on the county analysis sheets in the packets. Give them 15 or 20 minutes for this.
  10. After this time, have the class get back together to analyze their data. Ask them the following questions:
    • Do you believe the 4-H clubs made a difference in the war effort at home? What is your proof? (Most students will say “yes” and share numbers and kinds of activities carried on by the club members.)
    • What might be some explanations about the differences between the various counties? (For this question students will be asked to make some inferences. These could include: the different counties had different numbers of members and available young people to pool for membership in 4-H (population), there were counties from each of the three regions of North Carolina with differing growing seasons and available resources for livestock, some areas are more rural and some more urban, some areas may have already had a strong 4-H program and were building on it while others may have been trying to start a program. There are many other inferences that can be made. This question is to get students thinking critically about data interpretation.)
    • Why were you asked to highlight the counties on the North Carolina map? (Lead the students to understand that each region differs in growing season, resources, climate, etc. Each county also has a different population and rural communities.)
    • Why did the length of the letters differ? (Students can infer that since there was no obvious form to be filled in, that the statistics and reporting of them was left up to the individual county agents. Some agents included more information than others, and some included personal stories of members in their counties.)
    • Did anyone notice a peculiar designation on one of the letters? (You may want to just ask if the students if they noticed that one of the letters indicated a Negro 4-H designation — one of the letters is from a African-American club.)
    • Why do think that was made? (This would be a good time to continue to examine the effects of Jim Crow and separation made between the races, even in 4-H Clubs in North Carolina during the war years.)
    • What do these reports tell us about life for young people during the years of World War II in North Carolina? (Answers will vary.)

Homework or end of class processing

Have the students choose one of the counties to focus on. Each group member should take a different county so that they can use — or take home — one of the letters. They will each write an article for a newspaper in 1946 reporting about the impact that 4-H club members made on their county during the war. The article is to be a local, newsy kind of article. The newspaper is to be for a town in their county. The article should include:

  • statistical information
  • a human interest story (if one is not included in the letter, students should use what they have learned to imagine one)
  • what the reporter believes is the importance of the work done by the county 4-H club


Assessment will be from teacher observation of student discussion and demonstration of understanding. Students will also complete the county sheets 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 designed to address the skill of historical empathy. The articles should be evaluated as completing the three required items, but also should include an understanding of the impact the 4-H club work had on local communities. There should be some indication of civic pride on the part of the reporter for what the club members accomplished.

Extension activities

This extension activity adds a component to better examine the population of the county 4-H members during the war years. It is very important for students to question primary source material in analysis portions of research. This activity will give them some good information, but also require questioning of the statistical data. Do this activity after the discussion and before the homework assignment.

Give each group a copy of the Analysis of 4-H Club Work. Have them examine the document for several minutes.

Ask the following questions:

  • What is this document? (Mostly it is a statistical analysis of the numbers of 4-H club members, how many joined in 1942, how many stayed in the group, and what percentage of the available eligible young people in the county are participating. The other columns are concerning the percentage of time the extension agents give to the clubs and is not needed for this activity.)
  • Why do you think this information was important to the State Leader at this time? (He wanted to build membership. Students may infer this since in some of the letters they read about a Mobilization for War campaign that was to increase membership. If students cannot make this inference, you will probably help them to this conclusion or just tell them.)
  • How can this information help us with our analysis of the documents we just finished reading? (With this information, the students can see how many active members there were in the counties they were examining.)
  • What are some important facts that would prompt us to use this information to help with our analysis, but not as positive proof? (Students need to see that the statistical information only includes white membership. It is also for the years 1941 and 1942. The letters they examined were for the entire length of the war, Pearl Harbor to V-J Day.)

Supplemental information


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.

You may wish to replace one of the documents included in the student packet with one that originated from your own county. Use the instructions in the Pre-activities section to find the documents on the Green ‘N’ Growing website. Counties represented include:

  • Alamance
  • Alexander
  • Alleghany
  • Anson
  • Bladen
  • Burke
  • Camden
  • Craven
  • Durham
  • Gaston
  • Gates
  • Granville
  • Guilford
  • Harnett
  • Haywood
  • Hertford
  • Johnston
  • Nash
  • Northampton
  • Person
  • Sampson
  • Surry
  • Union
  • Wake
  • Warren
  • Yancey

Critical vocabulary

The foundation for 4-H began in the late 1800s with various agricultural projects geared at ensuring the future of rural youth. Today 4-Hers participate in hands-on learning activities supported by the latest research of land-grant universities that are focused on three areas: healthy living, citizenship, and science, engineering and technology.
extension workers and county agents
People who worked for land grant colleges and universities to improve life and bring information to rural people.
home front
What the home country is called during a time of war. During World War II, life in the United States was greatly affected.


Another lesson that uses the Green ‘N’ Growing materials, 4-H on the Home Front, can be used in conjunction with this lesson. It should be completed before this lesson.

  • North Carolina Essential Standards
    • Social Studies (2010)
      • Civics and Economics

        • CE.C&G.4 Understand how democracy depends upon the active participation of citizens. CE.C&G.4.1 Compare citizenship in the American constitutional democracy to membership in other types of governments (e.g., right to privacy, civil rights, responsibilities,...
      • Grade 8

        • 8.C&G.2 Understand the role that citizen participation plays in societal change. 8.C&G.2.1 Evaluate the effectiveness of various approaches used to effect change in North Carolina and the United States (e.g. picketing, boycotts, sit-ins, voting, marches,...
        • 8.H.1 Apply historical thinking to understand the creation and development of North Carolina and the United States. 8.H.1.1 Construct charts, graphs, and historical narratives to explain particular events or issues. 8.H.1.2 Summarize the literal meaning of...
        • 8.H.3 Understand the factors that contribute to change and continuity in North Carolina and the United States. 8.H.3.1 Explain how migration and immigration contributed to the development of North Carolina and the United States from colonization to contemporary...
      • United States History II

        • USH.H.1 Apply the four interconnected dimensions of historical thinking to the United States History Essential Standards in order to understand the creation and development of the United States over time. USH.H.1.1 Use Chronological thinking to: Identify the...
        • USH.H.7 Understand the impact of war on American politics, economics, society and culture. USH.H.7.1 Explain the impact of wars on American politics since Reconstruction (e.g., spheres of influence, isolationist practices, containment policies, first and second...

North Carolina curriculum alignment

Social Studies (2003)

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.

Grade 10

  • Goal 4: The learner will explore active roles as a citizen at the local, state, and national levels of government.
    • Objective 4.06: Describe the benefits of civic participation.

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.