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Economic Experiment Unit Plan

Learning Unit Template

Title: Jersey Homesteads--A New Deal Economic Experiment

Subtopic(s): United States History, New Jersey History, The New Deal, The Great Depression

Creator(s) And School Affliliation(s): William R. Fernekes, Hunterdon Central Regional HS Flemington NJ

Description: This learning unit provides opportunities for faculty and students to investigate the impact of New Deal policies on a New Jersey rural community; specifically, whether Jersey Homesteads, a new community established within the Division of Subsistence Homesteads of the National Recovery Act (NRA) under Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal policies, was successful in meeting the goals and aspirations of its founders and community members. Through use of unique primary sources available in the New Jersey Digital Highway repository and elsewhere, students are challenged to evaluate the relative success or failure of Jersey Homesteads as a New Deal experiment in social reform, while improving their skills in interpreting and analyzing historical sources.

Objectives: Through participation in this learning unit, students will be able to:

  1. identify the economic goals associated with experimental New Deal programs,
  2. interpret how residents of Jersey Homesteads and others sought to achieve their economic goals,
  3. apply core economic concepts and terms to develop a deeper understanding of the history of Jersey Homesteads and the impact of the New Deal on U. S. society,
  4. analyze the degree to which Jersey Homesteads residents and other federal government realized their goals for this experimental community,
  5. evaluate the relative success and/or failure of Jersey Homesteads as an economic experiment, and
  6. develop policy proposals to assist communities seeking economic renewal informed by an understanding of the Jersey Homesteads experience.

Time Required:

In schools using a 40-45 minute period daily schedule, this unit can be completed in 6-7 days. In a block schedule environment with instructional periods of 60-80 minutes each, it can be completed in 4-5 days.

Instructional Periods
See comments noted above under "Days."

Recommended Grade Level (check all that apply):

  • Kindergarten___
  • 1st___
  • 2nd___
  • 3rd___
  • 4th___
  • 5th___
  • 6th___
  • 7th-X-
  • 8th-X-
  • 9th-X-
  • 10th-X-
  • 11th-X-
  • 12th-X-
  • College-X-
  • Post-graduate___
  • Lifelong learner___

Curriculum Fit:

New Jersey Curriculum Standard(s):


By Grade 12 - Section J. The Great Depression and World War II (1929-1945)

Indicator 2--Describe how the Great Depression and the New Deal of Franklin D. Roosevelt transformed America, including the growth of the federal government, the rise of the welfare state and industrial unionism

Indicator 3--Analyze how the Great Depression and the New Deal transformed New Jersey, including Works Progress Administration (WPA) in new Jersey, the Jersey Homesteads and New Deal projects.


By Grade 12 - Section B

Indicator 4--Discuss the value and role of free and fair competition versus the social need for cooperation and how business, industry and government try to reconcile those goals.

Discussion: National Curriculum Standards (optional): (Specify subject field and relevant standards)

National Council for the Social Studies--Expectations of Excellence: Curriculum Standards for the Social Studies (NCSS, 1994)

Standard VII: Production, Distribution and Consumption

Social studies programs should include experiences that provide for the study of how people organize for the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services, so that the learner can:

VII.d. describe relationships among the various economic institutions that comprise economic systems such as households, business firms, banks, government agencies, labor unions, and corporations; and

VII.h. apply economic concepts and reasoning when evaluating historical and contemporary social developments and issues.


Resources Used:

NJDH Module Titles

  • Homesteads--Economic Experiment

Other Electronic Resources

Print Resources

  1. Hyman, Ronald T. Improving Discussion Leadership. New York: Teachers College Press, 1980.
  2. Michaelis, John U.and Jack L. Nelson, Secondary Social Studies. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1980.
  3. National Council for the Social Studies. Expectations of Excellence: Curriculum Standards for the Social Studies. Washington DC: National Council for the Social Studies, 1994.

Materials Needed:

Teacher-created materials created to implement learning unit

  1. Requirements for policy proposal

    Instructions: In your work group, prepare a policy proposal that will address problems and issues you studied about the Jersey Homesteads that affected the success of this New Deal economic and social experiment. The format shown below will help you organize your ideas for the culminating presentation and discussion. (Format is informed by Cassidy and Kurfman, 1977, as excerpted in Nelson and Michaelis, 1980)

    Group Focus:______________________

    Group Members: ________ ______ ______ _______ ______

    • Problem/Issue to be Addressed (Example Selection of Residents for a New Community) ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________
    • Identifying Possible Alternatives
    • Listing of Resources Required to Implement Each Alternative
      • B. 1.
      • B. 2.
      • B. 3.
    • Description of Consequences (Pros and Cons) for Each Alternative Noted in Section B
      • B. 1.
      • B. 2.
      • B. 3.
    • Evidence Supporting Each Alternative (Should be drawn from study of Jersey Homesteads, and from other sources if desired)
      • Evidence for Alternative B. 1.
      • Evidence for Alternative B. 2.
      • Evidence for Alternative B. 3.
    • Selection of Best Alternative (Based upon analysis of sections A-E above)
      • Define the criteria for the decision first, then proceed to small group discussion.
      • Best alternative Explanation with arguments and evidence.
      • Second Best alternative Explanation with arguments and evidence.
      • Third Best alternative Explanation with arguments and evidence.
    • Plan of Action to Implement Best Alternative
      1. Timeline
      2. Resources required (financial, human, other)
      3. Forecasting of potential obstacleshow will they be addressed?
      4. Unanticipated consequences what might they be?
      5. How will we know the plan was effective?
  2. Requirements for scored discussion outline

    Instructions: In your work group, prepare a policy proposal that will address problems and issues you studied about the Jersey Homesteads that affected the success of this New Deal economic and social experiment. The format shown below will help you organize your ideas for the culminating presentation and discussion. (Format is informed by Cassidy and Kurfman, 1977, as excerpted in Nelson and Michaelis, 1980)

    • Each student will prepare a documented outline (typed or legibly hand-written) in response to the central question: "How successful was Jersey Homesteads as an economic experiment during the New Deal?"
    • In preparing their outline, each student will reflect on what their specific study group accomplished in examining documents about their theme, but also use information provided by other groups during their presentations about their findings.
    • The outline should have the central question stated at the top of the page. Then, the student should state his/her position on the central question in one paragraph, noting key reasons in support of that position.
    • Following the position statement, a minimum of four reasons should be cited as major headings (I, II, III, IV), each followed by 2 pieces of evidence in support of those reasons. Evidence should be cited using parenthetical citations, and a works cited list should be provided at the conclusion of the outline. The final section of the outline should include a policy proposal that addresses the problem which the individual discussed in his/her small group. This should be an abbreviated version of the policy proposal which was prepared on the worksheet noted in item #1 above, and should reflect revisions emerging from prior small group discussion.
  3. Criteria for scored discussion evaluation(culminating assessment)
    • Students will be assessed on their participation in the discussion in two areas: discussion skills and knowledge of content about Jersey Homesteads and the New Deal.
    • Students are expected to (1) contribute during the discussion, (2) support their assertions with evidence, (3) listen attentively and critically to the comments during the discussion, (4) build upon the comments of their peers and pose questions based upon the comments they hear, (5) paraphrase and summarize key points when asked, and (6) apply relevant content knowledge about Jersey Homesteads and the New Deal within their contributions. The frequency and quality of their contributions will be assessed by the instructor.

Unit Methodology (Procedures):


Day One

  1. Review this central question with students: "How successful was Jersey Homesteads as an economic experiment during the New Deal (1933-1941)?" A. Clarify and define terms in the central question and brainstorm ways to investigate the question with students.
  2. Discuss the various ways to interpret the word "successful"--with students, develop criteria for evaluating success of an economic enterprise and a new settlement.
  3. Using this 1933 press release compare what the students believed would be the criteria for evaluating the success of an economic enterprise and a new settlement with the vision for Jersey Homesteads outlined in this press release. Ask students to place themselves in the position of the urban garment workers who were the primary settlers, and what they may have desired for their own futures in this new settlement.
  1. Locate these two photographs in the Roosevelt Photos module
part of a photo of someone ironing a short photo of people picking vegetables, perhaps beans

Use the worksheet located at the link provided here from the National Archives and Records Administration. Complete the worksheet for each photo, and then the instructor will lead a debriefing discussion using the questions noted below to begin responding to the unit central question.


  1. What do these two photos reveal about the types of economic activities at Jersey Homesteads?
  2. What types of production are being displayed in these photos? How do you know this?
  3. Given the production evident in these photos, who might be the consumers for these products? In what markets might these products be sold/distributed?

Homework In Preparation for Day Two--Students should identify questions that come to mind about Jersey Homesteads and its role as an experimental community, based upon the discussion of the photographic evidence and the press release during day one. Provide these categories, under which the questions can be listed--Production, Distribution and Consumption, and Worker/Management/Community Relations. The questions will be utilized during Day Two to spark further investigation about the community.

Day Two

  1. Begin this day's activity by listing the questions which students developed for homework. Have students clarify the meaning of their questions, and make sure that questions are accurately categorized. Then, divide the class into three groups. Each group will investigate one of the three categories from the homework assignment, with the goal of formulating a hypothesis they will test against the evidence they examine.
  2. Group One will focus on Production (including the Origins of Jersey Homesteads), Group Two will examine Distribution and Consumption, and Group Three will investigate Worker/Management/Community Relations.
  3. Before each group begins to examine the evidence listed below, they should begin formulating tentative hypotheses. The following process can assist the teacher and students in completing this process, which is essential prior to beginning the interpretation and analysis of evidence (drawn from Nelson and Michaelis, 1980).
  • Elicit potential hypotheses by questions:
    1. Why is this issue important?
    2. What general principles are involved?
    3. How do these ideas fit together?
    4. What do you think is the relation between these concepts?
  • Take statements made in text as hypotheses for testing.
  • Consider all generalizations to be raw hypotheses.
  • Discuss selection by class of appropriate hypotheses for study.
  • Refine hypotheses for testing:
    1. Which terms are unclear (defining)?
    2. What modifications would make this hypothesis more testable?
    3. What are the potential conclusions that could be drawn about this hypothesis?
    4. Assign the evidence shown here to each group. Once they have accessed this evidence, they should begin interpreting the evidence in light of their hypothesis, and discuss their preliminary findings.

Group One (Production)

8. Rubin Pizer's application to Jersey Homesteads

9. Roosevelt Oral History Committee Interview with Leo Libove Roosevelt Oral History Committee Interview with Leo Libove (Note that the Interview with Leo Libove contains information that can inform all three study groups.)

10. 'Clothing schedule' - listing of costs to prepare one suit 'Clothing schedule' listing of costs to prepare one suit

Group Two (Distribution and Consumption)
Newspaper advertisement from Jersey Homesteads Tripod Coat and Suit, Inc., to promote the ladies garments factory
  1. Newspaper advertisement from Jersey Homesteads Tripod Coat and Suit, Inc., to promote the ladies garments factory
  2. Co-op Agents for Jersey Homesteads, 1939
  3. Folding brochure entitled 'Co-op Garments for Central Pennsylvania' for 'Co-op Review' readers
  4. National cooperative organizations list
  5. Advertisement: Coats for Women and Misses
  6. Press Release titled "Department of the Interior Memorandum for the Press"
  7. Letter of concern from Boris Drasin, President of the Jersey Homesteads Industrial Cooperative Association
Group Three (Worker/Management/Community Relations)
  1. Roosevelt Oral History Committee Interview with Gustave Alef (excerpt)
  2. Roosevelt Oral History Committee Interview with Harry Glanz (excerpt)
  3. Roosevelt Oral History Committee Interview with Sarah Brown (excerpts)
  4. Letter to Mr. Drazin, President of Jersey Homesteads, from Samuel Niznevitz, Chairman of the Wage Planning Committee
  5. Preamble written by Jersey Homestead settlers. Note that an English translation follows the original document.
  6. Letter from the women representatives of Jersey homesteads' co-operative clothing factory to Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt
  7. Schedule of events for Farmer - Labor - Co-op Picnic; song lyrics for various songs

As each group is preparing hypotheses and examining evidence to assess their hypotheses, the instructor should circulate in the room and clarify issues about the sources, provide guidance in how to evaluate the validity of hypotheses, and help students prepare tentative conclusions in light of the evidence they've examined. Do not rush the process--students will need time to discuss the evidence and the hypotheses, and only then should they prepare tentative conclusions.

Day Three
  1. After each group has developed their tentative conclusions, the group will prepare a visual representation of their hypothesis, tentative conclusion(s) and key supporting evidence. This can be done with a poster or poster set, a Powerpoint presentation or using charts/graphs and other visual evidence that is well-organized and coherent.
  2. The instructor should monitor development of the presentation materials and provide advice on clarity, organization, use of relevant evidence, and the use of an equitable division of labor in how the work is done and presented.
  3. Each group will present to the rest of the class, and questions should be asked by each group and by the instructor to clarify and challenge the presenters' findings. The central question should be placed on the board and should be referenced by each group in their presentation--in short, how does each group's findings and their tentative conclusions shed light on the central question? If the students do not place sufficient focus on the central question, the instructor should challenge them to do so. All students in the class should take notes about the key findings from each group presentation in preparation for the next day's work.
Day Four
  1. On day four, each group will use the Policy Proposal Development worksheet and prepare a policy proposal that would address one or more of the problems which the residents of Jersey Homesteads and the Roosevelt Administration encountered at Jersey Homsteads from 1933-1945. The worksheet requires that each group use the evidence they've gathered about their particular aspect of Jersey Homsteads--along with other findings and sources from the rest of the class, and if they desire, from additional outside sources, such as the National Archives, the American Memory Project of the Library of Congress and Electronic New Jersey. The URL's for those sites are provided earlier in this unit plan.
  2. The instructor should spend time with each group, helping them work through the process outlined in the worksheet, and clarifying the precision of their thinking, as represented in the alternatives they develop, the preferred solution(s), and the implementation steps.
  3. Homework for Day Five--Inform the students that a scored discussion about the central question will be held on Day Five. The requirements for the documented outline and how their participation will be evaluated are noted above.
Day Five
  1. Place the central question for the discussion on the board and check that students are prepared with their outlines. Organize the room in a circle and appoint a recorder to help you keep track of student contributions to the discussion.
  2. Review the rules for the scored discussion and remind students that they will have both their written work (outline) and oral participation (discussion) evaluated as part of their culminating assessment for this unit.
  3. Moderate the scored discussion, intervening with questions and providing new information as needed. Since this discussion is a hybrid, including elements of a policy discussion and and explaining discussion (Hyman, 1980), the following questions can inform the instructor's design for the assessment. Collect student outlines at the end of the discussion.
Explaining Discussion
  1. What are the essential features and conditions of this situation? (Example--What were the conditions that led to the creation of Jersey Homesteads?)
  2. What led to this situation? (What problems led the federal government to work with Benjamin Brown to devise the proposal for a New Deal community?)
  3. What generalization, rule or law is related to this situation? (What were the requirements for success that the government and the residents put forward?)
  4. What support do you have that this generalization, rule or law is true (valid)? (Here, student hypotheses and conclusions can be brought forward)
  5. What are the relevant facts about this situation that connect it with the generalization, rule or law? (Students bring forward evidence from their work in small groups)
  6. Based upon the points made, what do you conclude explains why this situation occurred? (Based upon the evidence about Jersey Homesteads, was it successful?)
Policy Discussion (The instructor would use the following questions to help students bring forward their potential solutions to the problems faced by Jersey Homesteads residents and the government.)
  1. What is your initial (preliminary) stand on the issue at this point?
  2. What are the goals about this issue, that is, your desired state of affairs?
  3. What are relevant current and past facts on this issue?
  4. How would you implement the stand you take?
  5. What are the probably consequences of your stand?
  6. What would be your position if you were person X?
  7. What are some other possible positions to take?
  8. What are the possible consequences of these alternatives?
  9. In what way is your stand on this issue related to another issue or position you've taken previously?
  10. In light of all thse points, what final stand do you take on this issue?
  11. What are the key reasons for this stand?
Citation Format
  1. The electronic resources which are utilized in this learning unit (with the exception of those listed under "Other Electronic Resources" are from the New Jersey Digital Highway project, located at
  2. To access style guidelines for citation of electronic resources, click on this link:
If needed


Extension Activities: The instructor could assign an essay or brief reflection that would ask students to compare their initial responses to the problems faced by residents of Jersey Homesteads with their final conclusions, based upon the evidence and insights provided in the scored discussion.

Assessments of Student Performance:

Assessment Type: With links to unit objectives provided

Formative: Homework assignments as noted under each day of the methodology.

Description of Assessments

Central Question: How successful was Jersey Homesteads as an economic experiment during the New Deal?

  1. Preparation of document interpretation worksheet (Goal 2)
  2. Interpretation and analysis of primary and secondary sources about the New Deal (Goals 1, 3 and 4)
  3. Preparation of presentation about small group investigation (Goals 2, 3, and 5)
  4. Preparation of documented outline and participation in scored discussion (Goals 4, 5, and 6)