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In this lesson, students learn how the Cold War influenced the development of the Nike-Hercules Missile Program and how that program encouraged growth in Alaska. The following activities will help students apply what they have learned to their own communities and their understanding of the Cold War.

Activity 1: Nike Site Living - Mini Exhibits
Divide students into four small groups and assign each group one aspect of life at a Nike site: 1) Recreation and Entertainment; 2) Nike Hercules Missile Radars and Target Tracking Processes; 3) Site Maintenance; and 4) General Operations. Have students research these aspects of military life as it occurred throughout the United States while the Nike defense program was active. Have each group gather information, photographs, illustrations, charts, and quotes about their topic and organize what they find on a poster board or similar medium. Each group will present their poster to the class, with each student having a chance to speak. Consider displaying the posters together as an exhibit at the school or in the classroom.

Activity 2: Memories of the Cold War
Invite a veteran who served at a Nike site or at another similar military site to the classroom to discuss his or her experience. If you do not know where to look, contact a local veterans group and ask if someone could speak to your students. Hold a class discussion afterward and ask your students what they think life might have been like for civilians during the Cold War. Then, have students identify someone they know who lived during the Cold War era and have them ask that person for an interview. Have students submit a list of questions they want to ask their subject and then have them each conduct an interview and/or collect oral histories from their subject. If your students make audio recordings of their interviews, consider submitting the transcribed interviews as oral histories to a local historical society, veterans group, or the Cold War Museum.

Some suggested interview questions might be,

Do you think the Cold War affected your daily life? If so, how? If not, why do you think not?

How was the world different during the Cold War than it is today?

At the time, how did you think the Cold War would end? Did you think a nuclear war was inevitable?

Activity 3: Competing Ideologies
Have each student write a persuasive paper that compares and contrasts the Soviet Union and the United States during the Cold War, and takes a side in the Cold War's major ideological debate. Have students research the two nations' competing ideologies as well as the general differences in quality of life, political participation, social hierarchy, and military environment. You can decide if you want to assign a side or allow the students to choose the side for themselves. Have the students each research this topic independently and choose for which side they will argue.

If you split up the two positions among your students equally and there’s time left, consider having the class debate the issue formally. Guidance, including tips on how to help your students prepare and on assessing their performance, can be found online here.

 

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