January 30th is Franklin D. Roosevelt’s birthdate, and a great time to learn about this truly exceptional leader. Spend some time remembering Roosevelt and his impact. Have a listen to one (or both) of The Walking Classroom’s podcasts (5-#89 and 90, Complete-#118 and 119) about this president!
A Little about FDR’s Life
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, often known by the nickname FDR, was born January 30, 1882, to James Roosevelt I and Sara Ann Delano. FDR met his future wife Eleanor in childhood. In contrast to the sometimes shy Eleanor, he felt confident and comfortable in upper-class society.
FDR was never quite sure what he wanted to do with his life. His fifth cousin, Teddy Roosevelt, became the 26th president of the United States and inspired young Franklin to enter politics. FDR went on to have a widely successful political career, nearly cut short by a paralytic illness.
At the time, doctors believed he had contracted polio, and FDR feared the end of his career. But, thanks to the support of his wife and a few close friends, he won the 1928 gubernatorial election in New York! Not four years later, he was inaugurated president of the United States, having beaten the incumbent Herbert Hoover in a landslide and taking office in the middle of the Great Depression.
President Through Two National Emergencies
Serving through to his death in 1945, FDR is the only president in the history of the United States to be elected for more than two terms. He served a full three terms and a year into his fourth! Roosevelt is especially famous for his handling of the Great Depression, creating a series of programs that revitalized the crippled United States economy.
By the end of his second term, he was ready to give up his role. But the rise of Hitler and Nazi Germany in Europe led FDR to run for a second term, believing that only an experienced leader would be properly equipped to deal with a potential world war. Even so, he was hesitant to lead the nation into another crisis. It took the 1941 attacks on Pearl Harbor and the Axis powers’ formal declaration of war to finally bring the United States into WWII.
FDR would now have to lead the country against the second national crisis of his presidential career. He once again had to demonstrate his skill as president by guiding the United States through a world war on two fronts. Sadly, he died 30 days before the Germany’s surrender and the end of WWII in Europe.
Blend in a Biography or Two!
After your walk, give students some kid-friendly biographies to learn more about this fantastic president and national inspiration. Between a few in-depth perspectives on his policies as president, and even a few picture books, you’re sure to find the perfect fit for your lesson plan!
- In Kathleen Krull’s A Boy Named FDR: How Franklin D. Roosevelt Grew Up to Change America (930L), learn about this amazing president’s childhood, and how this rich New York kid grew up to help so many Americans.
- In Diana’s White House Garden (610L) by Elisa Carbone, find out about the Victory Gardens, one of FDR’s many clever solutions to wartime food drives. This book could even tie into a math or science lesson, planning your school’s own victory garden!
. . . and Explore Even More!
Looking for other activities to pair with these podcasts? Have your students analyze one of FDR’s fireside chats! Or, learn about Hoover Dam, one of the most famous structures built under New Deal programs!
Tie in the arts by looking at some prominent New Deal murals! This could even be connected to social studies with a lesson on the importance of cultivating the arts in challenging times.