Cold War Projects for High School

Cold War projects help high school students understand former relationships between the U.S. and the Soviet Union.
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High school history and political science teachers often assign classroom projects on the Cold War to help students understand tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union from the 1950s to the early 1990s. Projects should center on critical events, influential figures and social concerns during the era. As a teacher, you might combine individual projects with group assignments to help students gain a comprehensive understanding of the war.

1 Group Newscasts

Divide your class into groups of three or four students each and ask them to prepare an American newscast about the beginning of the Cold War. Students must write their scripts as if they were reporting the news in the 1950s. Provide Internet access and library research materials, including original newspaper articles from the era, so students can craft their newscasts around real events. Encourage them to discuss the political, economic and social implications of the war and include influential political figures, such as Josef Stalin, Dwight Eisenhower and Joseph McCarthy, in their newscasts. Set up a news desk, spotlights and a video camera, and ask each group to present their newscast for the class.

2 Civil Defense Brochures

Show your students the original 1951 Federal Civil Defense Administration "Duck and Cover" educational video -- teachers used the video to instruct students how to respond if an atomic bomb were detonated in the United States. Explain that the FCDA also produced survival literature, such as evacuation maps and bomb shelter tips, and show them some examples. Ask your students to make their own 1950s emergency preparedness brochures, using computer software, to educate and reassure the public should a nuclear attack have occurred during that time. Encourage students to include photos, symbols, drawings, pictures, maps, bullet points and graphs.

3 Cold War Timelines

Have students create timelines of the major events during the Cold War, extending from 1947 to 1991. Explain that the Cold War was the longest American war, but no actual fighting occurred on U.S. soil. Instruct your class to start their timelines shortly after the end of World War II and end them in 1991 after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. You might include a list of events they must include in their timelines, such as the Korean War, the Cuban Missile Crisis and the fall of the Berlin Wall. Allow your students to create their timelines by hand or with computer software.

4 Multimedia Presentations

Divide your class into pairs and ask each group to create a multimedia presentation on a Cold War topic, such as the arms race, the Red Scare, the formation of NATO, the Warsaw Pact, the Korean War, the Suez Crisis, the U-2 spy incident, the Bay of Pigs invasion, the Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty or Perestroika. Students should include text, photos and sound in their presentations. Create a rubric and give your students a copy, so they know what to include in their oral presentations.

As curriculum developer and educator, Kristine Tucker has enjoyed the plethora of English assignments she's read (and graded!) over the years. Her experiences as vice-president of an energy consulting firm have given her the opportunity to explore business writing and HR. Tucker has a BA and holds Ohio teaching credentials.