Activity 2: The Great Depression and its Impact on Canada
Time: 150 minutes
Activity 2 is divided into two sub-activities. In the first, students examine, assess, and interpret various “artifacts” from the 1930s in order to draw conclusions about the nature of the Depression’s impact on various aspects of the lives of Canadians. Included among the artifacts are items not directly related to the Depression but which are nonetheless important in the understanding of other events of the era. In the second part of the activity, students examine social, political, economic, and cultural, consequences of the Depression. Students consider the moral imperatives imposed by the Depression and the ethical issues surrounding capitalism as an economic system.
Strand(s) and Expectations
Ontario Catholic School Graduate Expectations: CGE1d , 3d , 4a.
Strand(s): Communities: Local, National, and Global; Change and Continuity; Citizenship and Heritage; Social, Political, and Economic Structures; Methods of Historical Inquiry
CG2.01 - explain how American culture and lifestyle have influenced Canadians from 1900 to the present;
CG2.03 - describe the influence of Great Britain and Europe on Canadian policies from 1900 to the present;
CC3.01 - identify why certain documents are important in the evolution of Canada’s political autonomy;
CH1.04 - evaluate the role of movements which resulted in the founding of political parties such as Social Credit, Union Nationale, Cooperative Commonwealth Federation;
CH2.02 - describe the contributions of selected individual Canadians to the development of Canadian identity since WWI;
CH2.03 - compare the backgrounds, careers, and contributions of twentieth century Canadian prime ministers in both formal and anecdotal reports;
SP2.02 - explain why social support programs were established in Canada;
SP2.05 - explain how Canadian governments at various levels reacted to the economic conditions of the Depression in the 1930s;
SP2.07 - explain how the government has promoted Canada’s cultural distinctiveness;
MI1.01 - use terms related to historical organization and inquiry correctly;
MI2.03 - record and organize information effectively using notes, lists, concept webs, timelines, organizers, charts, maps, graphs, mind maps;
MI3.02 - distinguish between primary and secondary sources of information, and use both appropriately in historical research.
The teacher prepares a “time capsule” or “trunk” filled with primary source material.
The teacher prepares an organizer chart for students to record their reactions to the documents they find in the time capsule which includes the categories economic, social/cultural, political, and other, as well as a place for students to write in the meaning or significance of the artifact and culture. (The teacher may wish to have the students create their own organizer chart as a skill development exercise)
The teacher may consider in advance how the groups are to be divided up so that each group is able to meet with success.
Students are familiar with the term primary source and how historians use them to interpret the past.
They should be aware of the general political situation in Canada coming out of the 1920s.
They should understand what Canada’s political relationship was with Britain prior to 1931.
1. Students are told that someone from the 1930s had made a time capsule to be opened after the century ended and the time capsule has just been discovered. The job of the students is to look at the documents and artifacts in the time capsule and speculate on what knowledge or meaning one can gain from them about the decade. Students should be divided into groups of about four and each group takes things from the capsule and collectively try to decide what they mean or what they imply about the events of the 1930s and the impact of the Great Depression. Sample artifacts might include:
a letter to Prime Minister Bennett;
documents such as the Regina Manifesto and the Statute of Westminster;
pictures of soup kitchens and homeless men, women/children/men in relief camps;
an excerpt from Pius XI’s encyclical “Mit Brennender Sorge” (With Burning Sorrow) 1937;
pictures and documents involving the Dionne Quintuplets;
2. Each student is given or creates an organizer chart to write down his/her information; the teacher may wish to caution students to use pencil in case changes have to be made. The charts should be divided into economic, social/cultural, political, and other categories and the students place each artifact in the correct category. In addition, the group identifies the meaning or significance of the artifact and records their impressions on the organizer chart.
3. Once all the groups complete their task, each group presents their “artifacts” (or a selection thereof) and conclusions to the rest of the class.
4. In the ensuing discussion, the teacher helps students to come to some specific conclusions about the meaning of the artifacts, trying as much as possible to draw on students’ ideas.
5. To close out the activity, the teacher directs students to consider the moral obligations put on a society and on individuals by such an economic disaster.
6. Students complete the activity by reading in their textbooks and taking point-form notes to supplement the classroom activity; notes should address any additional information not discussed in class but which falls under the categories in the students’ organizers.