Cold War Learning Stations


One lesson format I use again and again for my high school classes is “learning stations.”  In groups of 2-4, depending on the class, students work with primary and secondary sources to answer questions.  I usually structure it so they can go to the stations in any order.  I never do it on the first day of a unit to introduce a topic, but rather on the third or fourth day, so they can use what the prerequisite knowledge they’ve learned to interpret the documents.

I am including the learning station documents as a PowerPoint.

Sputnik and the Space Race Learning Stations

This set of learning stations was designed for an 11th grade US History II class.  It includes oral history, photographs and newspaper excerpts about the Space Race and how it impacted ordinary Americans.  The PowerPoint slides were printed out and stapled into packets for students to use at each cluster of tables.  For some classes, I have given each group all the stations at once, but for most classes it’s nice for them to move a little bit and have a change of scenery.  I am including the student worksheet questions below.

Name:                                                                                                  US History II

Ms. Nielsen

Cold War Learning Stations

In this activity, we will use primary sources about Americans’ experiences during the Cold War to help us get a better understanding of the time period.  Specifically these documents will focus on two main topics: sputnik and nuclear war.

Station 1: Sputnik in the Media

  1. How did the media react to Sputnik being launched?
  2. Why do you think Sputnik was “regarded… as a threat to [American] security”?
  3. According to John Gunther, what did Americans think about the Russians before the Sputnik launch?
  4. Why was the successful launch of Sputnik so surprising to Americans?
  5. According to John Gunther, how did Sputnik change the balance of power between the Soviet Union and the U.S.?
  6. According to John Gunther, what did Americans fear?  What did Russians fear?  How did Sputnik change this?
  7. In the November 4 article, who are they talking to?  What is he so worried about?
  8. In the November 4 article, what suggestions does the scientist make?
  9. According to the November 25 article, what was the U.S.’s “anti-sputnik measure”?

10. How do you think it was supposed to counteract Sputnik’s effects?

11. Read the quote from Russ Bimber.  Why did Mr. Bimber think the US led the world in rocket technology?  Why was it important?

12. What did the US do to combat Sputnik?

Station 2: Sputnik for Kids

  1. How old was Fred Bimber when Sputnik was launched?
  2. What were Fred Bimber’s parents so worried about?
  3. How old was Karen Nielsen when Sputnik was launched?
  4. How does Karen Nielsen describe the “excitement” about Sputnik?
  5. How did Karen Nielsen’s parents react to Sputnik?
  6. Look at the picture of the two boys.  Why do you think so many young Americans at that time were so interested in space-themed toys?
  7. According to Connie Bimber, what did Sputnik look like from Ohio?  (Put it in your own words)

Station 3: Growing up Cold War

  1. How did the Cold War affect Fred Bimber’s school?
  2. What were the bomb drills like at Fred Bimber’s school?
  3. How did people in Fred Bimber’s community prepare for a possible nuclear attack?  (list at least three ways)
  4. How did people in Karen Nielsen’s community prepare for a possible nuclear attack?  (list at least three ways)
  5. How did Karen Nielsen & Fred Bimber describe the way Russians were talked about at their schools?

I am including the learning station documents as a PowerPoint.

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