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The Cold War and Arms Race Lesson

Updated on February 3, 2017
Designing and launching rockets
Designing and launching rockets

This is part 6 in an 8 part unit study on Russia. Design and launch various types of rockets, dramatize the Berlin Airlift and the Chocolate Pilot, prepare and eat blini, and more while learning about the Cold War and the Arms Race. Also included are our favorite books, YouTube video clips, lapbook and activity links, and other resources we used as we studied the Cold War and Arms Race using the fun unit study book Russia: Land of Endurance by Konos Curriculum. Use these ideas with your class, family, or homeschool co-op group!

Included in this lens you'll find some of the activities we did along with our favorite books we read and YouTube clips we watched while we studied The Cold War & the Arms Race. Topics featured include World War II, the Spread of Communism, the Iron Curtain, the Korean War, the Arms Race, and Blini.

World War II

Locating the countries Germany invaded

Our Favorite Books on World War II

Burying the Sun
Burying the Sun

This is a great chapter book about a teenage boy living in Leningrade in 1941 when the Germans attack Russia. It includes so much about Russia and that time period. It is a wonderful book to read aloud to your children or to have your older children read independently. It is a perfect compliment to this unit!

 
You Wouldn't Want to Be a World War II Pilot!: Air Battles You Might Not Survive
You Wouldn't Want to Be a World War II Pilot!: Air Battles You Might Not Survive

This doesn't focus on Russia during WWII, but it does cover many aspects of the war in a truthful and humorous manner. It is a longer picture book, but even my 3 year old enjoyed listening to it as we read through it.

 
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World War II & the Cold War: 1940-1960- Graphic U.S. History (Saddleback Graphic: U.S. History) by Saddleback Educational Publishing - Book images are from amazon.com.World War 2 Tales (Chester the Crab's Comix With Content) by Bentley Boyd You Wouldn't Want to Be a Secret Agent During World War II!: A Perilous Mission Behind Enemy Lines by John Malam
World War II & the Cold War: 1940-1960- Graphic U.S. History (Saddleback Graphic: U.S. History) by Saddleback Educational Publishing - Book images are from amazon.com.
World War II & the Cold War: 1940-1960- Graphic U.S. History (Saddleback Graphic: U.S. History) by Saddleback Educational Publishing - Book images are from amazon.com.
World War 2 Tales (Chester the Crab's Comix With Content) by Bentley Boyd
World War 2 Tales (Chester the Crab's Comix With Content) by Bentley Boyd
You Wouldn't Want to Be a Secret Agent During World War II!: A Perilous Mission Behind Enemy Lines by John Malam
You Wouldn't Want to Be a Secret Agent During World War II!: A Perilous Mission Behind Enemy Lines by John Malam

More great picture books on WWII

We tried to only give a brief overview of World War II. These three books were my children's top choices of the ones we read. World War II & the Cold War: 1940-1960- Graphic U.S. History (Saddleback Graphic: U.S. History) by Saddleback Educational Publishing is a good graphic book (comic-book style) covering WWII and the Cold War. My boys especially LOVE any graphic illustrated books they can find, and I love that they actually learn from them! World War 2 Tales (Chester the Crab's Comix With Content) by Bentley Boyd looks like a comic book but actually teaches quite a bit. This focuses on World War II. You Wouldn't Want to Be a Secret Agent During World War II!: A Perilous Mission Behind Enemy Lines by John Malam is part of the fun "You Wouldn't Want to..." series. It talks about a British soldier's mission into German-occupied France. It doesn't focus on Russia but does a good job of covering what agents did during the war. My children loved this one!


YouTube Clip We Enjoyed on WWII

The Spread of Communism, The Iron Curtain, & The Korean War

The Domino Theory

My children did take turns trying to stop the dominoes from falling once the first domino was knocked down. They were never successful.

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Berlin Airlift & the Chocolate Pilot: They made parachutes for chocolate, climbed a tree, & dropped them on "the children of West Berlin."Trying to contain the spread of the "communist balloons"The puppet (North Korea) & the puppeteer (USSR)
Berlin Airlift & the Chocolate Pilot: They made parachutes for chocolate, climbed a tree, & dropped them on "the children of West Berlin."
Berlin Airlift & the Chocolate Pilot: They made parachutes for chocolate, climbed a tree, & dropped them on "the children of West Berlin."
Trying to contain the spread of the "communist balloons"
Trying to contain the spread of the "communist balloons"
The puppet (North Korea) & the puppeteer (USSR)
The puppet (North Korea) & the puppeteer (USSR)

Our Favorite Picture Books on the Berlin Airlift, the Iron Curtain, & the Korean War

Mercedes and the Chocolate Pilot
Mercedes and the Chocolate Pilot

My children loved this story book that is a trues story about an American pilot who dropped chocolate packages for children in West Berlin during the Berlin Airlift. My children wanted to read this book over and over again, and they of course wanted to act out the part about dropping chocolate!

 
The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain (Caldecott Honor Book)
The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain (Caldecott Honor Book)

All my children enjoyed this picture book autobiography tells the story of children's illustrator, Peter Sis, as he grew up in Czechoslovakia under Soviet rule. Using mainly pictures and little text (as is usual with his books), he describes what life was like as he was told to turn in anyone suspicious, was told to draw only what was patriotic, and was told that communism was the best way to live. Through it all, his drawing encouraged him. He includes some of his childhood journal entries which include historical events such as Laika traveling to outer space.

 

YouTube Clips on the Red Curtain, Marshall Plan, Berlin, & the Korean War

We only watched parts of the videos on the Red Curtain, Marshall Plan, Berlin, & the Korean War. Some of them have been taken down since we watched them. We really enjoyed the ones by The History Channel such as Declassified Rise And Fall Of The Wall and Communism.

The Marshall Plan Explained: US History Review

Peacebound Trains
Peacebound Trains

This is a longer picture book (though short enough to be read in one sitting) about a young girl and her family as they escape on a train after Seoul gets attacked. My oldest 3 children (ages 5-10) enjoyed this book.

 
The Korean War (Turning Points in American History)
The Korean War (Turning Points in American History)

This picture book gives a summary of the main events that took place during the Korean War. It was written specifically for elementary-aged children.

 

Arms Race

Building up "arms" (collecting acorns) in an arms race

(The purple team won.)

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School Bomb DrillShooting off bubble-powered rocketsShooting off 2-liter bottle rockets
School Bomb Drill
School Bomb Drill
Shooting off bubble-powered rockets
Shooting off bubble-powered rockets
Shooting off 2-liter bottle rockets
Shooting off 2-liter bottle rockets

Good YouTube Clips on the Arms Race

We also watched all of the video "Sputnik" as it includes both the atomic bomb and the Space Race (which we'll be learning about next).

The Doomsday Clock is Ticking! - THE COLD WAR Arms Race

Blini

Making blini (Russian pancakes) for lunch

We used this recipes from food.com and served them with berry preserves

Ready for more?

Painting a Russian Orthodox triptych from Lesson 1: Russian Geography and Early Russian History Lesson
Painting a Russian Orthodox triptych from Lesson 1: Russian Geography and Early Russian History Lesson

Cook borscht and blini, study and paint like the famous artists of Russia, perform a miniature "Nutcracker" ballet performance, dramatize a Communist lunch (complete with sentencing to "Siberia" for the non-compliant), and more in the fun 8 part study on Russia!

  • Russian Geography and Early Russian History Lesson - This is part 1 in an 8 part unit study on Russia. Paint a Russian Orthodox triptych, taste caviar, play the Russian Temperate Zone Game, read classic Baba Yaga tales, and more while learning about Russian geography and early Russian history. Also included are our favorite books, YouTube video clips, lapbook and activity links, and other resources we used while learning about Russian geography and early Russian history.
  • Russian Czars Lesson - This is part 2 in an 8 part unit study on Russia. Construct a model of the Red Square, attempting Cossack-style dancing, decorate eggs like Carl Faberge, read classic Czar tales, and more while learning about Russian Czars. Also included are our favorite books, YouTube video clips, lapbook and activity links, and other resources we used while learning about Russian Czars.
  • Russian Revolution Lesson - This is part 3 in an 8 part unit study on Russia. Play the Russian Civil War version of Capture the Flag, endure a "Communist" lunch complete with trying to trade food on the black market, create Communist flags, and more while learning about the Russian Revolution. Also included are our favorite books, YouTube video clips, lapbook and activity links, and other resources we used while learning about the Russian Revolution.
  • Siberia Lesson - This is part 4 in an 8 part unit study on Russia. Sketch an Aurora Borealis landscape scene using pastels, making grape jelly to demonstrate the smelting process, cut out various shapes of snowflakes, dress up as and pretend to be musk oxen, walruses, Siberian tigers, and reindeer, and more while learning about Siberia. Also included are our favorite books, YouTube video clips, lapbook and activity links, and other resources we used while learning about Siberia.
  • Russian Ballet Lesson - This is part 5 in an 8 part unit study on Russia. Perform a miniature production of The Nutcracker, learn the basic positions in ballet, watch videos of and read about famous Russian dancers including Anna Pavlova, Nijinsky, and Baryshnikov, and more while learning about Russian ballet. Also included are our favorite books, YouTube video clips, lapbook and activity links, and other resources we used while learning about Russian ballet.
  • The Cold War and Arms Race Lesson - This is part 6 in an 8 part unit study on Russia. Design and launch various types of rockets, dramatize the Berlin Airlift and the Chocolate Pilot, prepare and eat blini, and more while learning about the Cold War and the Arms Race. Also included are our favorite books, YouTube video clips, lapbook and activity links, and other resources we used while learning about the Cold War and the Arms Race.
  • The Space Race and The Olympics Lesson - This is part 7 in an 8 part unit study on Russia. Make a full-size model of Sputnik 1, learn gymnastics moves and host a miniature Olympics gymnastics competition, experiment with sugar while learning about the Cuban Missile Crisis, and more while learning about the Space Race and Russian Olympics. Also included are our favorite books, YouTube video clips, lapbook and activity links, and other resources we used while learning about the Space Race and Russian Olympics.
  • End of the Cold War and Russian Artists Lesson - This is part 8 in an 8 part unit study on Russia. Recreate Kandinsky’s and Marc Chagall’s works, build and then knock down a model of the Berlin Wall, decorate pysanky eggs, make and eat kulich, and more while learning about the end of the Cold War and contemporary Russian artists. Also included are our favorite books, YouTube video clips, lapbook and activity links, and other resources we used while learning about the end of the Cold War and contemporary Russian artists.
  • Russia: Faberge, Chess, & Borscht – This lesson provides a simple overview of Russia. I have compiled all you will need to locate Russia on a map, cook a Russian meal, watch YouTube clips on Russia, color the flag, create a Russian craft, read a great book about Russia, and more!
  • Ukraine: A Missing Mitten, Pysanky Easter Eggs, & Babka Bread – If you would like to learn a bit more on Ukraine, visit my lesson at which I have shared all you will need to locate Ukraine on a map, cook a Ukrainian meal, watch YouTube clips on Ukraine, color the flag, create a Ukrainian craft, read a great book about Ukraine, and more!

Need More Ideas & Activities?

The below free unit studies were written to be used with 8th graders:

Hitting the Cold War From All Angles is an interdisciplinary covering history, language arts (writing), science, and music lessons.

The Cold War & Music covers the Cold War by focusing on the pop music of the time including Sting’s “Russians” and Billy Joel’s “Leningrad,” “Goodnight Saigon,” and “We Didn’t Start the Fire.”

The Cold War is a hands-on interdisciplinary unit including math practice, art lessons, edible maps, dance lessons, and more.

It All Came Tumbling Down! The Break-up of the USSR focuses on history and geography.

McCarthyism focuses on the role of the arts and media in challenging the Bill of Rights.

Russia: Land of Endurance

All of the above activities featured in the photos are just some of the many excellent activities featured in Russia: Land of Endurance by Konos Curriculum. The curriculum is easy to follow, with a lesson full of activities for each day of the week. You can either buy the book or you can buy the lesson book along with needed craft supplies and books.

What first comes to mind when you think of the Cold War? - Or just let me know you were here! I love hearing from you!

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