Author: Inside the Cold War
Unit Title: Cold War
Lesson Title: Impact of the Early Cold War on High School Students
Subject: World History; US History
Level: 10 - 12th Grades
Length of Lesson: Two 45-minute periods or one 90-minute period
These Cold War history lesson plans for high school provide insights on the Cold War by placing today’s high school students in the place of high school students during the Cold War. This history lesson plans also generate discussion on similarities and differences between the Cold War and today regarding potential disasters at home and military service abroad.
Students will analyze the 1951 US government civil defense film “Duck and Cover” and practice some of the techniques shown in the film. They will then prepare a family readiness plan to enhance their family’s readiness for natural disasters or WMD, using guidelines from the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
They will also review a film showing combat in the Korean War and discuss the role of drafted teenage soldiers in the conflict.
1. Students will understand the nuclear threat during the Cold War.
2. Students will understand how high school students were trained to respond to the nuclear threat in 1951.
3. Students will be able to compare the 1951 civil defense strategy with today’s strategy for WMD.
4. Students will create a family disaster plan to enhance readiness for a natural disaster or WMD attack.
5. Class will review and understand key elements of their school’s emergency plan.
3. Additional topic: Students will be able to discuss the role of draftees in the Korean War and compare that conflict with the role of teenagers in the post-9/11 wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Resources and Activities:
Cold War Lesson Plans for High School
The 1951 film “Duck and Cover:”
Students will watch the film, produced by the US government for students during the Cold War, and try some of the self-protection moves shown in it, such as going under their desks when warned of an atomic attack.
Teachers can note the film was produced shortly after the Soviet Union, America’s main adversary in the Cold War, obtained the atomic bomb. Until then, the US was the only country with this powerful weapon. During the following Cold War years, both sides worried about a potential nuclear attack from the other.
DHS/FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) “Be a Hero” Curriculum for 9-12 Graders:
Students will learn about the most important potential disasters and emergencies. They will compare today’s threats and responses to those covered in the “Duck and Cover” movie. Students will create a family preparedness and communication plan.
School Emergency Plan:
Teacher to use excerpts from his/her school, focusing on responses to natural disasters such as hurricanes or tornadoes.
Additional Topic: Korean War & High School Kids
Students will view the film “US Forces Liberate South Korean Capital” (1950) on the Korean War for Kids page:
[this page is also suitable for its own stand-alone 45-minute lesson]
More than 4,000 teenagers (19 years old and younger) from just the Army were killed in action during the Korean War, the first major “proxy war” between the US and Soviet Union of the Cold War. About 1.5 million Americans were drafted during the Korean War and another 1.3 million volunteered for the military during that period. During this period, a number of people under the age of 18 managed to join the military.
Soldiers in Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan), America’s longest war, and Operation Iraqi Freedom, were almost always required to be 18 or older. Well over 1,000 18-21 year olds have died for their country out of nearly 7,000 total.
Why do many teenagers and young people tend to be killed in war?
Compare and contrast the issues of a war in which many soldiers were drafted – required to join the military – and those in which NO Americans were drafted (the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan). Is it more or less fair to wage a war with an all-volunteer force, such as today’s? Does a war with all volunteers change the level of commitment by the US population? What would life be like for high school students today if they faced being drafted and sent to war?