The Great Depression Teaching Resources

Economic Episodes in American History: The Great Depression
David Wheelock, vice president and deputy director of Research, gave a presentation on “The Great Depression” on July 11, 2013, as part of an economic education workshop at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
Watch videos of the presentation

An Overview of the Great Depression
Presentation by David Wheelock, Fed economist and author of the overview essay in The Great Depression Curriculum. In this presentation, Wheelock outlines causes of the Great Depression, economic concepts, and data from the era.
Download presentation slides (.ppt)

Lessons Learned? Comparing the Federal Reserve’s Responses to the Crises of 1929-1933 and 2007-2009
This article by St. Louis Fed economist David C. Wheelock compares the Federal Reserve’s responses to the financial crises of 1929-33 and 2007-09, focusing on the effects of the Fed’s actions on the composition and size of the Fed balance sheet, the monetary base, and broader monetary aggregates.
Read the article

Meet Kit: An American Girl Lesson Plan
Students listen to the story Meet Kit about a young girl’s life in America during the Great Depression. They learn through discussion and role-playing about the impact that unemployment and reduced consumer and business spending can have on people’s lives.
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Potato: A Tale from the Great Depression Lesson Plan
After reading and discussing a story about a family during the Great Depression, students differentiate between goods, services, barter, and money. Students are led through several rounds of a barter activity that incorporates math skills. Through this activity, students learn about the difficulties of using barter to satisfy wants.
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Saving Strawberry Farm Lesson Plan
In this lesson, students learn that saving is essential to economic well-being, especially in times of extreme economic downturn. They read Saving Strawberry Farm, a story about a Depression-era family attempting to save a neighbor’s farm by waging a penny auction. Students hear about the lack of goods and services available and the high rate of joblessness during this terrible time. They simulate a bank run to see how even those with savings were affected. Finally, they learn that savings are safe in banks today.
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Sky Boys: How They Built the Empire State Building Lesson Plan
In this lesson, students learn about human resources, productivity, human capital, and physical capital. They participate in three rounds of a reasoning activity. From round to round they receive training and tools to help them improve their reasoning ability and thus increase their productivity. Students will then listen to a story about how the Empire State Building was built and identify examples of key concepts mentioned or shown in the book.
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Former Chairman Ben Bernanke on The Great Depression
The following videos are part of an interactive timeline on the Great Depression, provided by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.

  • Understanding the Great Depression
    In this video, Bernanke describes the 1920s as the economic precursor to the Great Depression. Further, he describes the economic and financial conditions that characterized the Great Depression and explores its primary causes.
  • The Federal Reserve’s Response to the Great Depression
    In this video, Bernanke discusses the Federal Reserve’s response to the Great Depression, evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of the Fed’s attempts to mitigate the economic and financial crises that characterized and prolonged the Great Depression. He addresses policies put in place by the Roosevelt Administration which eased the problems that exacerbated and prolonged the Great Depression. Finally, he discusses the policy lessons learned from the Great Depression.

View the timeline

Money, Gold, and the Great Depression
Remarks by Governor Ben S. Bernanke at the H. Parker Willis Lecture in Economic Policy, Washington and Lee University, Lexington, Va., March 2, 2004.
Read the lecture | Bernanke's bio

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