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.
A lesson plan for grade 5 Social Studies
Students will be able to:
- describe a Victory Garden
- recognize how the 4-H clubs in North Carolina “mobilized for victory”
- create a poster to encourage the use of homegrown foods during World War II
Time required for lesson
Three forty-five minute class periods
- student copies of the preview activity (Word document)
- student copies of guided notes (Word document)
- student copies of Victory Garden readings from official 4-H documents from the Green ‘N’ Growing collection at North Carolina State University’s Special Collections Research Center: 1, 2, 3, and 4 (PDF documents)
- student copies of the math activity (Word document)
- white poster board
- colored pencils
- overhead projector
- transparencies: “4-H Boys and Girls, 1942” and “4-H Boys and Girls, 1943” (Word documents)
- Design a seating chart. Divide the students into mixed-ability pairs. Prepare an overhead that shows the students who their partners are and how to arrange their desks.
- Pass out the Victory Garden packet: preview activity, guided reading notes, readings (1, 2, 3, and 4), and math activity. Students add the assignments to their social studies folder or history notebook.
- Explain the preview assignment and allow students time to complete it in class. “All around us are gardens. Some are flower gardens, others are vegetable gardens. Write about a time you either planted a garden or visited one. (Here you may wish to name some gardens in your area.) Include some simple drawings of the garden and plants.”
- Introduce the lesson. During World War II, people in America grew fruit and vegetable gardens called Victory Gardens. Growing Victory Gardens were one way that civilians could contribute to the war effort from the home front. By growing their own food civilians were able to increase their self-sufficiency and increase food resources sent to American soldiers overseas. At the peak of the Victory Garden programs, it is estimated that nearly 20,000,000 gardens were grown and about 40 percent of all vegetables produced in the United States came from Victory Gardens. By the end of the war the Department of Agriculture estimated that Victory Gardens produced over one million tons of vegetables valued at 85 million dollars. In North Carolina the 4-H Clubs mobilized approximately 500,000 boys and girls to participate in at least one food production or conservation project. The 4-H Club felt that mobilizing North Carolina youth could make a major contribution to the war effort.
- Display the transparencies,“4-H Boys and Girls, 1942” and “4-H Boys and Girls, 1943.” Ask spiraling questions.
- What do you see?
- What key details, or pieces of evidence, do you see?
- What are the people doing?
- How would you describe the scene and people?
- What feelings would these boys and girls be experiencing?
- What message is the picture trying to convey?
Use a blank white sheet of paper to create a Magic Eye. The Magic Eye can be used to point out details that support students’ interpretations.
- Reading activity one. Partners will read “Mobilization for Victory,” reading 1. When complete, partners will add notes to the multi-flow map on the guided reading notes.
- Reading activity two. Partners will read “Enlistment for Victory,” reading 2. When complete partners will add notes to the multi-flow map on the guided reading notes.
- Reading activity three. Partners will read “Recommended Projects,” reading 3. When complete partners add notes to the guided reading notes.
- Reading activity four. Partners will read “Food for Victory,” reading 4. When complete partners add notes to the guided reading notes.
- Mathematics and garden design activity. The seed varieties on the math activity are documented in period sources and appropriate for planting in a World War II-era Victory Garden. The prices are contemporary. Students have $50.00 to spend on seeds. Tax is 7 percent. Students will create a shopping list of the plants seeds they wish to purchase and calculate their total cost including tax. They will also create a layout for their garden. The layout must show where each vegetable should be planted and include the garden’s dimensions and simple drawings of each plant.
For the culminating project, students will create a Victory Garden poster.
- Show examples of Victory Garden posters. The best way to do this is to go to the Green ‘N’ Growing website and click on the Victory Garden images. In particular, click on image 0016623 and zoom in to show your students the posters.
- Provide students with requirements for their posters:
- size: poster
- full color
- detailed drawing that reflects the theme and era
- patriotic message that reflects the theme and era
- follow the conventions of grammar, punctuation, and spelling
- Allow students adequate time to work on their posters. Encourage them to incorporate as much of their existing work from the lesson as possible, and help them to locate other resources.
- After students have completed their final posters, allow them to circulate around the room to view other students’ posters. If possible, arrange to have students display their posters for other classes, their families, and other interested members of the community.
- home front
- The civilian population and activities of a nation whose armed forces are engaged in a war abroad.
- Organize and encourage people to act in a concerted way to bring about a particular political objective.
- Needing no outside help in satisfying one’s basic needs, especially in the production of food.
- Belonging to or occurring in the present.
For extra credit or as an extension activity, design an oral history project in which students interview a 4-H member, grandparent, neighbor, community member, or local garden club about Victory Gardens in your community.
North Carolina curriculum alignment
Social Studies (2003)
- Goal 1: The learner will apply key geographic concepts to the United States and other countries of North America.
- Objective 1.06: Explain how people of the United States and other countries of North America adapt to, modify, and use their physical environment.
- Objective 1.07: Analyze the past movement of people, goods, and ideas within and among the United States, Canada, Mexico, and Central America and compare it to movement today.
- Goal 4: The learner will trace key developments in United States history and describe their impact on the land and people of the nation and its neighboring countries.
- Objective 4.03: Describe the contributions of people of diverse cultures throughout the history of the United States.
- Common Core State Standards
- Mathematics (2010)
- Number & Operations in Base Ten
- 5.NO.7Add, subtract, multiply, and divide decimals to hundredths, using concrete models or drawings and strategies based on place value, properties of operations, and/or the relationship between addition and subtraction; relate the strategy to a written method...
- Number & Operations in Base Ten
- North Carolina Essential Standards
- Social Studies (2010)
- 5.G.1 Understand how human activity has and continues to shape the United States. 5.G.1.1 Explain the impact of the physical environment on early settlements in the New World. 5.G.1.2 Explain the positive and negative effects of human activity on the physical...
- Social Studies (2010)
- Mathematics (2010)