Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

Fall Out Shelter
Jeanie Jones
Geography of the Western Hemisphere, Government and Economics
Time Frame:
85 minute block
Cold War

Grade Levels:

Classroom/Homework Activity to be performed:

Students will take the events of the Cuban Missile Crisis and place into context of the Cold War. After students list then discuss the media available during this time they will work with a partner to create a poster or diorama depicting a fallout shelter from the 1950-1960 eras in response to the Cold War and  the Cuban Missile Crisis. Dr. Spencer Kagan’s cooperative learning strategy will be used as a formative assessment tool.  Primary sources will also be included in this lesson


The Cold War led to media hype about how to survive in a fallout shelter in the event of a nuclear attack.  The question asked, “How rational and effective would such a shelter have been?’ will be included in class discussion.  Cultures change over time is often overlooked in a sixth grade geography class and this is a topic I’d like to address during this lesson.

District, state, or national performance and knowledge standards/goals/skills met:

Show-Me Standards:  Knowledge Standards  In Social Studies, students in Missouri public schools will acquire a solid foundation which includes knowledge of the use of tools of social science inquiry (such as surveys, statistics, maps, documents).

Performance Standards

Goal 1:2 conduct research to answer questions and evaluate information and ideas

Goal 2:1 plan and make written, oral and visual presentations for a variety of purposes and audiences

Goal 3:2 develop and apply strategies based on ways others have prevented or solved problems

Goal 4: 1 explain reasoning and identify information used to support decisions


Benchmark 1: Geographic Tools and Location: The student uses maps, graphic representations, tools, and technologies to locate, use, and present information about people, places, and environments.

Benchmark 4: The student engages in historical thinking skills

Secondary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed:

Life magazine handout, September 15, 1961 excerpts


YouTube video (used as a download on my desktop):

Duck and Cover propaganda video from 1951



Primary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed:

Photographs of fallout shelters, plans from the 1950-1960’s for fallout shelters, letter from the president and the articles in the Life handout.

Full description of activity or assignment.

Students will watch a portion of the video, Duck and Cover, to introduce the cultural point of view of the American public during the Cold War.  The video is 9 minutes and 15 seconds and I would not use the entire clip. Students will discuss the technology available during this time period.  The teacher would also stress how World War II had just ended and cultural opinion towards a communist form of government existed.  The Life magazine handout will be shared with a partner.  Students will create a list of materials and supplies prior to designing  a fallout shelter with their partner. When the posters are created students will have two options:  one to create a poster depicting a fallout shelter of from the 1950-1960’s or one the students design using today’s technology.  A list of criteria will be presented to the students:  only authentic materials and supplies are used, items in the posters will be labeled, and a rationale for the items taken into the fallout shelter be included.  Partners will be asked to share the posters in a Dr. Spencer Kagan activity, Mix-Freeze-Pair and Share. Students will be given time during the activity to add any new items to their posters that they now feel will be needed in a fallout shelter.  Posters will be displayed for the other students.

Full explanation of the assessment method and/or scoring guide:

Formative assessments will be from teacher observation of partner discussions, items included on the posters, partner sharing in the cooperative learning activity.