How do we keep the world safe in a nuclear age?
Fourth edition. November 2017.
PREVIEW THIS UNIT. The preview includes the table of contents, a student reading excerpt, and one lesson plan. PREVIEW ALL UNITS. Additional unit descriptions for the Current Issues Series that summarize the historical context, student readings, and skill development are available on this MIRO BOARD.

Today, the world faces many difficult challenges. Climate change, terrorism, and humanitarian crises crowd the headlines of the newspapers. For many, understanding the challenges facing the world is overwhelming. Perhaps no international issue seems more overwhelming than nuclear weapons. The Challenge of Nuclear Weapons raises disturbing but crucial issues for students to consider. The unit is divided into two parts. Each part includes:

  • Student readings
  • Accompanying study guides, graphic organizers, and key terms
  • Lessons aligned with the readings that develop analytical skills and can be completed in one or more periods
  • Videos that feature leading experts

This unit also includes an Options Role Play as the key lesson and additional synthesis lessons that allow students to synthesize new knowledge for assessment. You do not need to use the entire unit; feel free to select what suits your classroom needs.

“I enjoy the detail that is provided in this unit to establish the historical context and the effort that is made to bring the topic forward to the present in order to explain why the topic is still relevant.” – Patrick, Middle School History Teacher, New York

Part I: The Problem of Nuclear Weapons

Part I introduces students to the history of nuclear weapons and the concept of deterrence. There are two lessons aligned with Part I: 1) Portrayals of the Soviet Threat, and 2) Songs about Nuclear Weapons.

Part II: Three Challenges—Cold War Arsenals, Proliferation, and Terrorism

Part II examines some of the arguments for and against nuclear weapons, and then looks at three challenges: the leftover arsenals of the Cold War, proliferation, and the threat of nuclear terrorism. There are two lessons aligned with Part II: 1) Mapping the Nuclear World, and 2) Fifteen Minutes.


Portrayals of the Soviet Threat

Students examine U.S. portrayals of the Soviet threat during the Cold War.

By analyzing lyrics and watching videos, students explore the relationship between political events and popular culture.

Mapping the Nuclear World

Students analyze maps and data to draw conclusions about the status of nuclear weapons stockpiles today.

Fifteen Minutes

Students stage a fictional depiction of presidential decision making during the minutes before a potential nuclear attack.

Film Analysis

Synthesis Lesson: Students watch selected films and consider the relationship of film to historical understanding.

The Options Role Play

The Options Role Play is the key lesson in the unit, and it asks students to examine three distinct options for U.S. nuclear policy in preparation for writing their own option.

Joining the Debate on U.S. Policy

Synthesis Lesson: Students deliberate the options presented and consider the moral dilemmas of nuclear deterrence. They then articulate their own coherent recommendations for U.S. policy.

  • Slideshow of the images used in the lesson “Portrayals of the Soviet Threat”

  • Slideshow of the map used in the lesson “Mapping the Nuclear World”

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