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Presidential Hobbies Activity

Research, Current Events, Writing

Elementary, Middle and High School

30-60 minutes each section

Pencil, paper, crayon or colored pencils, computer

To discover how hobbies help us clear our minds and learn valuable skills and lessons that we can apply to more formal parts of our lives.

Post a picture of your work to social media with the hashtag #fdractivities

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Historic Context:

President Roosevelt was famous for his ability to compartmentalize his
thinking. That means he was able to focus on one or two things at a time without all the other things he was worried about or busy with overwhelming his thinking. Hobbies help us to develop this skill by allowing us to give our minds a rest by focusing on things that are interesting and fun for us. When we are able to do this for a while, we can return to the more pressing matters in our lives refreshed and with new perspective and focus. FDR had several hobbies that allowed him to do this. He collected stamps, books and ship models, sailing and bird watching.

Below are a series of activities based on some of FDR’s Hobbies.

Stamp Collecting:

FDR began collecting stamps when he was about 8 years old. He learned a great deal of history by studying the countries and dignitaries (the famous people) featured on the stamps in his collection. Later on when he became ill with polio, working with his stamp collection helped pass the long lonely hours he spent by himself. Still later, when he became president FDR spent between a half and full hour every day before bed looking over his collection as a way of winding down from the burdens of his day. He even came up with his own designs for stamps!

Create Your Own Stamp Activity:

1. Pretend you have been asked by the United States Postal Service to design a new stamp. 

a) What person or event would you feature on your stamp? 
b) What colors would you use? 
c) What images might you choose to include on your stamp?

Stamp Activity – Questions:

1. What did the stamp that FDR designed look like? Take a look at some of the stamps currently used by the United States today. 

a) What person or event is featured on the stamp? 
b) Why do you suppose that person?
c) When was the stamp created?

Stamp Activity – A Step Beyond:

1. Google FDR and Stamp Collecting to learn more about why FDR enjoyed this hobby. 

2. Google the person or event on a stamp currently used to learn more about them or it. 

3. Google the United States Postal Museum to learn more about the history of mail service in the United States. 

4. Ask your parents to take you on a visit to your local post office. 

a) What do you see there? 
b) What are the workers doing? 
c) Ask a worker if they can tell you a little something about their job. 

5. Describe three things you learned about by designing your own stamp, researching a currently used stamp or visiting the post office.

Book Collecting:

FDR began collecting books when he was a child. He learned a great deal of history and other important topics by reading the books in his collection. By the time he was a grown up he had about 23,000 books in his collection! His collection contained books about the Navy, birds, trees, history, architecture and local history. To identify his books, he created a special “book plate” that he placed near the front cover.

Create Your Own Book Plate Activity:

1. Take a look at the books you have in your collection. 

a) Count how many there are. 
b) Make a list of what topics or categories they cover.
c) How does your collection compare to FDR’s in number and topics? 

2. Take a piece of paper and design your own “Book Plate” that identifies the books in your collection as belonging to you. 

a) What colors will you use? 
b) What shapes or images will you include? 
c) What words will you use? 
d) Will you include additional information like, when and where you got the book?

Book Collecting – Questions:

1. Which is your favorite book in your collection? 

2. How do the pictures included in your books help to tell the story the author is trying to tell? 

3. Why do you suppose the authors wrote the books in your collection? 

4. If you were asked to write a book, what would you write it about?

Book Collecting – A Step Beyond:

1. Ask your school librarian how many and what kinds of books your school has in its library. How does that compare to FDR’s collection in size and topics? 

2. Google FDR and Book Collecting to learn more about why FDR enjoyed this hobby. 

3. Ask your parents to take you on a visit to your local library. 

a) What do you see there? 
b) What are the workers doing? 
c) Ask a worker if they can tell you a little something about their job. 

4. Describe three things you have learned by reading a book.

Create a Display from the Things You Collect Activity:

1. Take a few minutes to think about the things you collect. Do you collect one thing, a few things or lots of things? 

2. What category (group) or categories (groups) does your collection fall into? Would it be sports, nature, music, super heroes, things from places you have been? 

3. From your collection, select one item that you are most proud or pleased with. Now find a place to display it in your room. 

a) How will you display it? 
b) What “Story” does this item tell? 
c) Why is it important to you? 
d) How does it compare with the other items in that category of your collection? 

4. On a piece of paper, write a few sentences that describe the object. 

a) What do you call it? 
b) When did you get it? 
c) What is it made of? 
d) Why is it important? 
e) What is the story it tells? 

5. Select another item and follow the same procedure until you have created a small “museum” of your collection. Now invite your family in for a “tour“ of your Museum collection.

Things You Collect Activity – Questions:

1. Why do you collect the things you do? 

2. What do you like about these items? 

3. What have you learned from collecting them? 

4. What might your family, or others that you share your museum with learn about you from “visiting” your museum collection?

Things You Collect – A Step Beyond:

1. Do some research about how real museums, with thousands or tens of thousands of objects, decide what and how to display what they have in their collections. 

2. Contact a museum that contains a collection you might be interested in and ask to talk to someone in their museum curator department about how they obtain, catalog, preserve and display their objects. 

3. Do a google search to see who else collects the things you collect.