Arthurdale: Example of a Planned Community

Arthurdale: Example of a Planned Community
Eleanor Roosevelt: Science, Medicine, Inventions and tech

Skill: Middle School
Time Required: One grading period


As part of his New Deal program, President Franklin D. Roosevelt established the Subsistence Homesteads division of the Department of the Interior under the National Industrial Recovery Act.  The purpose of this division was to build communities for people in need of help as a result of the Great Depression.  Eleanor Roosevelt took particular interest in a community by the name of Arthurdale and served in the capacity of micro-manager.  She worked with Harold Ickes, Interior Secretary, to make sure the homes had insulation and indoor plumbing; persuaded companies such as GE to establish plants in the community so that community members would have jobs; and attended graduations, dances and other community events.


In this lesson students will learn about the complexities of their local community by designing their own planned community.

Materials Required:

Community members willing to come to class and be interviewed by students; poster board and magic markers


1.  Explain to the students that throughout history, groups of individuals have formed planned communities to address economic, social, religious, political and technological problems.  For example, in the Great Depression, the U.S. government created communities to end poverty; the Shakers formed communities to better practice their faith.  Even our nations’ capital, Washington, D.C. is a planned community. 

2.  Share with the students that, together as a class, you are going to design a planned community and brainstorm with them the information the class will need to learn in order to plan a community.  Below is the beginning of a list of information needed and where that information might be obtained:

  • Average cost of a home in the community – real estate agent
  • Average cost of property tax – real estate agent
  • Average cost of utilities for a home owner – real estate agent
  • Average cost of building a school – school treasurer
  • Average cost of running a school – school treasurer
  • Average cost of community buildings such as a recreation center – mayor
  • Governmental expenses – mayor
  • Average tax payer taxes – village tax administrator
  • Average industry taxes – village tax administrator
  • Cost of road construction and maintenance – county engineer
  • Cost of running a company – local business leader

3. Once the list is complete, compile with the students a list of questions for each person in the class to use in interviewing community members who will be invited to come to class either individually or as a panel to be interviewed.

4. When the community members come to the class, divide the questions so that many students can ask questions and also encourage the students to ask follow-up questions for further understanding.

5. After each interview, have students keep notes of what they learned.

6. Once they have a general understanding of costs, begin designing the community.  The following are some questions for the class to consider during the design process:

  • What is the reason or theme of your community?  (i. e. environmentally safe community, sports community, peace and justice community, fine arts community)
  • What is the name of the community?
  • What type and how many industries, homes, stores will be in the community?
  • What type and how many public buildings will be in the community?

Extending the Lesson:

To extend this lesson, invite the art teacher in the building to collaborate on the project and design the community using art supplies and techniques.

Sources & Resources:


Eleanor Roosevelt - Juvenile 
   Freedman, Russell. Eleanor Roosevelt, a Life of Discovery. New York: Clarion Books, 1993.   (Newberry Award) 
   Rosenburg, Pam. Eleanor Roosevelt. New York: Compass Point Books, 2003. 
   Winget, Mary. Eleanor Roosevelt. Minneapolis: Lerner Publications Company, 2003.
Eleanor Roosevelt - Adult 
   Embridge, David (ed.). My Day: The Best of Eleanor Roosevelt’s Newspaper columns, 1936-1962. New York: First Da Capo Press, 2001.  
   Feinberg, Barbara Silberdick.  Eleanor Roosevelt, a Very Special Lady. Brookfield: The Millbrook Press, 2003. 
   Mattern, Joanne. Eleanor Roosevelt, More Than a First Lady.  New York: The Rosen Publishing Group, 2003. 
   Roosevelt, Eleanor. The Autobiography of Eleanor Roosevelt.  New York: Harper & Brothers, 1961. 
   Roosevelt, Eleanor. You Learn By Living. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1960. 

Eleanor Roosevelt: 
This lesson was developed by Debra L. Clark, Kent State University.