Teaching With Documents Lesson Plan:
Photograph and Pamphlet About Nuclear Fallout
This lesson correlates to the National History Standards.
- Era 9 -Postwar United States (1945 to early 1970s)
- Standard 2A -Demonstrate understanding of the international origins and domestic consequences of the Cold War.
This lesson correlates to the National Standards for Civics and Government.
- Standard I.A. 2. -Evaluate, take, and defend positions on why government is necessary and the purposes government should serve.
- Standard III.B.1. -Explain the major responsibilities of the national government for domestic and foreign policy.
This lesson relates to the duties and powers of the president and Congress,
to provide for national civil defense in the event of war, as set forth in
the Preamble, in Article I, Section 8, paragraph 18, and in Article II, Section 3, Clause 1 of the Constitution.
Share this exercise with your history, science, and government colleagues.
- Direct the students to read the "Facts about Fallout" pamphlet
and create a running list of terms in the pamphlet for which they need definitions.
Allow the students to research these terms.
- Direct the students to analyze the "Facts about Fallout" pamphlet
and to list any questions that either were not answered by the pamphlet or arose
as a result of materials provided therein. Students will then discuss their questions, research any that remain unresolved through their discussions,
and report their solutions to the class.
- Direct the students to compare/contrast the definition of "nuclear
fallout" in the pamphlet with one in an encyclopedia or other reference
Students may wish to consult science reference works to learn what a "half-life" is. Instruct students to write a one-page report about the
similarities and differences. The report should be used to generate class discussion to ascertain the accuracy of various definitions. The objective
is to determine how scientifically useful the "Facts" pamphlet was.
- Divide the class into seven groups and provide each group with one of the
images and a Photograph
Analysis Worksheet. Instruct the each group
to analyze its image and complete the worksheet. Regroup the students with one member from each of the seven previous groups serving as expert
on that group's image. Allow students to compare and discuss the images in order to discover the relationships among the images. Ask each student
to write a brief essay explaining the relationships.
- Direct students to conduct at least two interviews with adults who were
in elementary or high school during the period 1955-1965 to determine
what the interviewees did at home and at school to cope with the threat of nuclear war. Alert students to inquire about how the subject felt during
the drills. Require students to record their questions and the responses of their subjects. Ask student volunteers to describe their interviews to the
- Divide the students into two groups and assign each group one of the following
- Research the history of your school (or another local school that existed
in the 1950s and 1960s) to determine procedures that were implemented
to deal with the threat of nuclear war in the 1950s and '60s and prepare a brief pamphlet on the procedures as though you were participants in the
drills in 1955.
- Research current school and community emergency preparedness procedures
and write a report that sets forth the basics of the plans such as
warning sirens and evacuation. Ask students to consider nonmilitary emergencies such as hazardous-material spills, nuclear power plant "events,"
and natural disasters such as floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, or tornados.
- Research the history of your school (or another local school that existed in the 1950s and 1960s) to determine procedures that were implemented
- Direct the students to use the display, diagram, and photograph of a "fallout
shelter" to create a bill of materials to construct and stock an atomic
bomb shelter at today's prices. As a concluding exercise, permit the students to report on items missing from the bill of materials that they think are
essential for survival and to defend their suggestions. (Students should assume that electricity is not available.)
The documents included in this project are from Record Group 287, Records of the Government Printing Office; Record Group 304, Records of the Office of Civil and Defense Mobilization; and Record Group 311, Records of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. They are available online through the Online Catalog (OPA) National Archives Identifiers:
The Online Catalog (OPA) replaces its prototypes, the Archival Research Catalog (ARC) and NARA Archival Information Locator (NAIL). You can still perform a keyword, digitized image and location search. The online catalog's advanced functionalities also allow you to search by organization, person, or topic.
The online catalog is a searchable database that contains information about a wide variety of NARA holdings across the country. You can use the online catalog to search record descriptions by keywords or topics and retrieve digital copies of selected textual documents, photographs, maps, and sound recordings related to thousands of topics.
Currently, about 80% of NARA's vast holdings have been described in the online catalog. Thousands of digital images can be searched in the online catalog. In keeping with NARA's Strategic Plan, the percentage of holdings described in the online catalog will grow continually.
This article was written by John M. Lawlor, Jr., a professor at Reading Area Community College in Reading, PA. Dedicated to John M. Lawlor, Sr. 1919-1999.