Making Old New Again

By Potter, Lee Ann | The Science Teacher, February 2018 | Go to article overview

Making Old New Again


Potter, Lee Ann, The Science Teacher


In 1942, students at Armstrong Technical High School in Washington, D.C., and Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring, Maryland, made model airplanes according to U.S. Navy specifications. The models helped train civilian and military personnel. That same year, elementary students at the Tower Hill School in Wilmington, Deleware, made desks and other classroom furniture; and sixth graders at The Lincoln School of Teachers' College, Columbia University in New York City made pottery.

These students, along with thousands of others from a wide variety of backgrounds, all engaged in hands-on activities to create products intended for specific purposes. Their efforts were well documented by photographers engaged in a major "maker activity" of the federal government. Again, why was this being done, all part of the war effort?

The photographers who captured these images more than seven decades ago initially worked for the Farm Security Administration (FSA) of the Department of Agriculture, and most reported to Roy E. Stryker, formerly an economics instructor at Columbia University. The FSA had been created in 1935 as part of the New Deal, and the photographers' work focused on the challenges of rural poverty.

In 1942, the unit moved to the Office of War Information, and focused attention on America's mobilization during the early years of World War II. They included Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, Russell Lee, Arthur Rothstein, Ben Shahn, Jack Delano, Marion Post Wolcott, Gordon Parks, John Vachon, Carl Mydans, and others. …

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