|In-Class Student Activities
DAY ONE (75 minute class period)
Introductory Activity: American Response to Cold War Fears
Before class begins, teacher will make a class set of the brochure, “Facts About Fallout (1955)” and place on each student’s desk. The U.S. Government wrote and distributed this literature to allay the fears of citizens. It illustrates 1950s conventional thinking about the threat of nuclear war, radioactive fallout, and consequences. (NARA ARC Identifier 306714)
As the students look at the primary source document, pass out a document analysis worksheet and direct them to answer the related questions. http://www.archives.gov/digital_classroom/lessons/analysis_worksheets/document.html
Give them approximately 20-25 minutes to read and analyze the brochure. Ask them to share their answers with a partner.
Given their background knowledge and the new information presented, put up an overhead asking them to determine and give specific examples of the approach the U.S. government took to alleviate fear of nuclear threat. In their opinion, was this a “realistic” and “sound” plan? Why did the U.S. government choose to downplay the effects of nuclear waste? What motivator did the U.S. have for passing out simplistic brochures to the citizens? Do you think this effectively comforted people? Why or why not? This reflection will take 20-25 minutes. Share together as a class.
For the remainder of the period, have the students design a more accurate and realistic brochure. Finish as homework.
DAY TWO (75 minute class period)
Content: What Did Bomb Shelters Look Like?
Make overheads of primary source digital picture copies of bomb shelters.
NOTE: To use NARA primary sources go to http://arcweb.archives.gov/arc/basic_search.jsp and Click 'ARC Search'. In the search box type in the number only 542191 to retrieve the item listed.
ARC Identifier #542105
How to build a fallout shelter - Attractive interior of basement family fallout shelter includes a 14-day shelter food supply which may be stored indefinitely, a battery-operated radio, auxiliary light sources, a two-week supply of water, and first aid, sanitary and other miscellaneous supplies and equipment
ARC Identifier #542104
Temporary Basement Fallout Shelter, [artist's rendition
ARC Identifier #542103
Display of survival supplies for the well-stocked fallout shelter
ARC Identifier #542102
Office of Civil and Defense Mobilization exhibit at a local civil defense fair.
1. As you display each overhead, have the students record their ideas, questions, and knowledge about each scene in the picture. Allow them to share their responses and add to the discussion by asking questions. Examples might be: How big would a bomb shelter need to be? What items would be needed for survival? For entertainment? For education? How would the quality of your life change? How might the world change while you are underground?
2. Use the NARA Documents Analysis Worksheets for photographs.
DAY 3-4 (1 and ½ 75 minute class periods)
Cold War, Duck and Cover, and Simulated Bomb Shelters
Preparation: Measure one 8 x 14 foot area in your room and mark it off with masking tape.
After the tardy bell rings, make a loud noise, ring a bell, or yell loudly. Instruct students that they need to get under their desks, move into a fetal position, and “duck and cover” their heads. Tell them to approach the drill seriously; it’s for a participation grade. Make them stay this way for at least five minutes. After they are seated, have them take out a piece of paper and record their reactions to the drill. Discuss responses. Direct the conversation to lead students to the frightening fact that if a nuclear bomb were to hit their city, no desk or structure would protect them. America during the 50s was somewhat naïve and under they assumption that the “bomb could be beaten.” Americans where reassured that nuclear waste was harmless and that they would be notified with plenty of time to reach protection.
Next, students will move into their 8 x 14 foot “bomb shelter.” Make sure that they bring their notebooks and supplies with them. Do not let them up unless it is an emergency. The goal is to make them feel as claustrophobic as possible, giving them a brief glimpse about what living in a shelter would entail.
Surround them with desks so that they are scrunched inside the “simulated” shelter. Show them a few video clips from “Atomic Scare Films,” a collection of ludicrously outdated Cold War shorts dealing with nuclear war and its after effects. Included are "Survival Under Atomic Attack," "Duck and Cover," "American Cities Atomic Fallout Strategy," "The Atom Strikes," "You Can Beat the A-Bomb" and Civil Defense commercials. You can purchase this video at Movies Unlimited for $19.99. http://www.moviesunlimited.com/musite/product.asp?sku=D62393++
Show them a video called, “The Atomic Café.” The Atomic Cafe (1982) is an ironic and darkly funny documentary look at the "Cold War" mentality of the '40s and '50s. U.S. government films, newsreels, contemporary songs and Hollywood clips show America's naive attitudes towards nuclear power, the A-bomb, and World War III. See children "duck and cover" to avoid fallout, tour custom-built bomb shelters, and get some sound advice from Hugh Beaumont. 88 min. You can purchase this video at Movies Unlimited for $18.99.
After participating in both simulations, students will return to their desks and write down their impressions of what life was like during this time period. Again they will question why the government was so vague and simplistic about the idea of nuclear war and how frightening it must have been to face such disturbing facts. If not already mentioned by the students, introduce the media’s role featuring stories of average American families going through the process of building and preparing to live in a fallout shelter. Families were even advised about what sorts of items should be stockpiled.
At the end of the lesson, students will respond to a variety of questions.
1. Would you have allowed a neighbor and his family into your shelter when you only had enough supplies for your own family? What would you do if neighbors insisted on coming in to your shelter? Would you have the right to use armed force?
2. Describe what life might be like after a nuclear war. Would life on Earth after such catastrophic devastation still be worth living?
3. Describe the feelings you would have experienced as a young child practicing “duck and drill” exercises for several years? How would this affect your life?
4. What mob mentality might come result from a limited amount of bomb shelters? How safe would you be?
Extended Enrichment Activities:
1. Make class sets or read aloud an interesting article called “Cold War Bomb Shelter Now a Tourist Attraction” by Karen Testa.
2. Tell them or read aloud the true story of the Mininson couple who spent their honeymoon in a bomb shelter. You can access this story at http://www.conelrad.com/atomic_honeymooners.html or http://www.thebulletin.org/issues/2001/jf01/jf01geerhart.html
Both websites will give you extensive coverage about their two-week stint in a shelter. Note that the story glamorizes life in a bomb shelter as the couple emerges from the shelter happy and rested.