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Bring History Alive With Video Clips & Lesson Plans From Ken Burns' 'The Roosevelts'


Theodore Roosevelt waves to the crowd.

Theodore Roosevelt waves to the crowd.

Courtesy of Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

Now you can bring history alive for your students with three lesson plans and 19 accompanying video clips tied to Ken Burn’s latest series The Roosevelts: An Intimate History.

Ken Burns’ seven-part documentary weaves together the stories of Theodore, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, three members of one of the most prominent and influential families in American politics.

The Roosevelts follows the family’s story for more than a century, from Theodore’s birth in 1858 to Eleanor’s death in 1962. Over the course of those years, Theodore would become the 26th president of the United States, and his beloved niece, Eleanor, would marry his fifth cousin, Franklin, who became the 32nd president. Together, they redefined the relationship Americans had with their government and with each other, as well as the role of the United States within the wider world.

The series encompasses all the history the Roosevelts helped to make — the creation of National Parks and the digging of the Panama Canal, the New Deal and the defeat of Hitler, and the postwar struggles for civil rights at home and human rights around the world.

You can access all of the educational materials, geared for students in grades 7-12, by clicking on the OPB/PBS Learning Media links below.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt at his home in Hyde Park, New York, 1937

President Franklin D. Roosevelt at his home in Hyde Park, New York, 1937

Credit: Courtesy of Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library

Evolution of the Presidency
This lesson plan examines the powers of the executive branch. First, students read Article II of the Constitution and learn how past presidents exercised this power in practice. Then, students view video clips to examine how Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt carried out their executive duties during their respective terms in office. In the final activity, students produce a documentary examining one of the Roosevelt president’s execution of power during a crucial time in history. 

Delegate Eleanor Roosevelt at a meeting of the United Nations, 1947

Delegate Eleanor Roosevelt at a meeting of the United Nations, 1947

Courtesy of Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library

Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Students analyze the impact of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Eleanor Roosevelt’s influence on it through video clips and other online resources. Then they develop technology-rich persuasive presentations in an effort to create a “Universal Declaration of Student Human Rights.”

Theodore Roosevelt, 1903

Theodore Roosevelt, 1903

Courtesy of Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

President Theodore Roosevelt: Foreign Policy Statesman or Bully?
This lesson plan examines Theodore Roosevelt’s legacy in foreign affairs. Students will analyze the U.S. Constitution as it pertains to the powers of the president to formulate and implement foreign policy, and debate Theodore Roosevelt’s legacy using primary and secondary sources, including video clips from The Roosevelts.

lesson plans Ken Burns The Roosevelts Theodore Roosevelt Franklin D. Roosevelt Eleanor Roosevelt

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