Year Down Yonder—Giving During the Depression (A)

3, 4, 5

Students will learn basic terms and vocabulary related to the Great Depression. After listening to A Year Down Yonder, by Richard Peck, students will understand how small acts of philanthropy were possible, even during these difficult times. Students will identify acts of philanthropy and illustrate one act through a creative presentation.

Lesson Rating 
PrintNine thirty-minute class periods to read the book aloud to students, one one-hour class period to allow kids to develop presentations, and two additional class periods to allow kids to present (will vary depending on length of presentations).

The learner will:

  • define vocabulary and terms used during the Great Depression.
  • identify and share at least one example of the philanthropy from the novel, A Year Down Yonder, by Richard Peck.
  • A Year Down Yonder, by Richard Peck (see Bibliographical References)
  • Chart paper, markers
  • Paper and pencils for students to take notes
  • Photo of Children Overhead (Attachment One)
  • Examples of Philanthropy from A Year Down Yonder (Attachment Two)
  • Parent Letter (Attachment Three)
  • Philanthropy in Action-Homework Assignment (Attachment Four)
  • Additional materials students may need to create their presentations
  • Overhead projector
Home Connection 

Interactive Parent / Student Homework:Send home the Parent Letter (Attachment Three) to introduce this lesson. Attach a copy of Philanthropy in Action-Homework Assignment (Attachment Four). Students will need to look for examples of philanthropy at home. They may use examples from TV or from the people they know or hear about. They will keep track of acts of philanthropy they observe for one week. They should discuss their homework with their parents, and parents will sign the homework before the students return it to you.



  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Make an overhead of the Photo of Children Overhead (See Attachment One), which is a photograph taken of some children during the Great Depression. Discuss the photograph. Ask students: "What do you see here? How are these people the same as you? How are they different? What do their clothes tell you about them? What other clues do you see?" Explain that this is a photograph taken of some children during a difficult time in American history called The Great Depression. Explain that many people were out of work and had difficulty supporting their families. Explain to students that through a wonderful book, they will be exploring how people can be philanthropic, even during very difficult times.

  2. On a sheet of chart paper, write the following vocabulary and definitions and discuss the terms with the class. Leave the chart paper up in the room so the students can refer to it as needed.

    • Philanthropy: The giving of one's time, talent or treasure, and taking private citizen action for the sake of another or for the common good.
    • C.C.C.: Civilian Conservation Corps, also known as Roosevelt's Tree Army. President Franklin Roosevelt introduced a broad reforestation project, which provided jobs for as many as three million young men who were unemployed during The Great Depression. During the years 1933-1942, these men planted and cared for trees and parks. The program was extremely popular. It is an example of government philanthropy.
    • WPA: Works Progress Administration. The WPA was established in 1935 to create public jobs for the unemployed. Jobs included creating indexes and oral histories, building streets, highways, bridges, public buildings, schools, and airfields. The program created eight million jobs at a cost of $11 billion. It is an example of government philanthropy.
    • The Great Depression: 1929-1941. A period in American history when many people were unemployed and could not find jobs. Many people struggled to feed their families and support themselves.
    • Begin reading the novel. Ask the students to listen for examples of philanthropy in the book. Have students take notes as they listen. After each chapter, discuss characteristics of the time and place. Discuss the examples of philanthropy and write them on chart paper. Be sure to title each chart paper with the name of the chapter. See Examples of Philanthropy from A Year Down Yonder (Attachment Two) for a list of examples of philanthropy by chapter as well as some discussion questions. Discuss what costs and benefits come to the persons who perform the kind acts. The person performing an act of philanthropy is giving up an opportunity for him or herself.
    • After completing the novel, divide the children into groups of three-four. Explain that each group will be making a presentation describing or demonstrating an act of philanthropy from the novel. Refer to the chart papers from each chapter to assign an act of philanthropy to each group. (Here is a method for giving the students some choice: Have each group pick three of the philanthropic actions that they would like to use. Try to give each group one of their choices. If you have three of their choices to choose from, everyone should get something with which they feel comfortable.)
    • The groups may make their presentation in any number of approved forms:
      • perform a "rap" or song
      • perform a skit or pantomime
      • make a collage
      • make a mural
      • presentation software
      • any other method approved by you
    • Allow a one-hour class period for students to prepare their presentations.
    • Schedule presentations for the class to perform for each other.

Observe the students' participation and depth of understanding in the following tasks: Taking appropriate notes during the reading Understanding of the meaning of philanthropy Ability to work with others to produce a presentation Creativity in presentation Presentation demonstrates the philanthropic act

Cross Curriculum 

The students will design and perform for their classmates a creative presentation that demonstrates or describes a philanthropic act. As an extension, the performance may be presented to other classes or parents.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 06. Role of Family in Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.2 Identify examples of families supporting giving and sharing.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 01. Self, citizenship, and society
      1. Benchmark E.3 Describe a benefit of group cooperation.
    2. Standard PCS 03. Philanthropy and Economics
      1. Benchmark E.3 Give examples of <i>opportunity cost</i> in philanthropic giving.
    3. Standard PCS 07. Skills of Civic Engagement
      1. Benchmark E.2 Discuss an issue affecting the common good in the classroom or school and demonstrate respect and courtesy for differing opinions.