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History and Current Issues for the Classroom

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Choices Teaching Fellow Steve Seltz Wins National Teaching Award

9/11 Tribute Center

2014 9/11 Tribute Center Honorees

Choices Teaching Fellow Steve Seltz, from Urban Assembly School for Law and Justice high school in Brooklyn, NY was awarded a 2014 Teacher Award from the 9/11 Tribute Center in New York. The awards are given to educators who create projects that thoughtfully engaged their students in understanding 9/11 through a variety of disciplines. According to the 9-11 Tribute Center, few teachers throughout the country are supported in their efforts to teach about 9/11. The 9/11 Tribute Center has made it a priority to collect, reward and share the creativity and commitment of teachers that have taken the challenge and made tremendous accomplishments in their school.

Students in Seltz’s 12th grade Global Issues class research and debate how best to confront the issues of modern terrorism in a democratic society. The class engages in readings and debates materials adapted from the Choices curriculum unit Responding to Terrorism: Challenges for Democracy. Students are guided to recognize relationships between history and current issues with the goal of becoming responsible citizens. They identify and discuss the conflicting values and points of view that help shape history.

Seltz’s project has gown out of many years of teaching students about the broad causes and effects of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. By having students conduct research into Middle Eastern, European and American history, they can build a better understanding of the context of the 9/11 attacks, and are thus better able to engage in informed debate and discussion about the ongoing political and social challenges presented by the attacks. The goal is for students to talk about the challenges of terrorism particularly as it relates to the students’ lives as New Yorkers and for them to better confront the fears they might have in considering the problem.

You can read more about Steve’s use of Choices curriculum units in Teacher Conversations. (http://www.choices.edu/pd/teacher-conversations/seltz.php)

Congratulations to Steve Seltz and his students!

Teaching a Long View of Russia and the United States

The Choices Program was founded in the 1980s during a period of high tension between the United States and the Soviet Union. Thomas J. Watson Jr., U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union from 1979-1981, and a former president of IBM, proposed that Brown University create a foreign policy center where scholars and practitioners could work on U.S.-Soviet relations and U.S. nuclear weapons policy. Thus, the Watson Institute was born. We at Choices are one of its offspring and have retained a focus on U.S.-Russia relations. Over the years, a fantastic group of scholars has helped Choices present this important topic for high school classrooms.

The situation in Ukraine tops the news right now accompanied by many pronouncements and speculation about what it means for the United States, Europe, Russia, Ukraine, etc. The situation is serious, but often the analysis in the media seems incomplete, unhelpful, and contradictory.

The challenge is to make sense of the events for ourselves and our students. Russia’s Transformation: Challenges for U.S. Policy provides a rich historical overview of U.S.-Russia relations from the Russian Empire through the present day. The materials cover the social and economic upheaval that followed the end of the Soviet Union, and then helps students assess the most recent challenges for U.S.-Russia relations. It’s a great way to come to an informed judgement about these important events and the U.S. relationship with Russia.

Russia’s Transformation is also available as an Ibook. It is visually really attractive, contains informative videos like the one above, as well as text that helps put current events in a historical context. It is a great resource for anyone looking for a rich, but concise overview of this important issue.

Finally, we also have a new Teaching with News activity: Unrest in Ukraine. This free lesson provides a background to the ongoing crisis, has students analyze political cartoons, and helps them to monitor the Ukrainian crisis in the news.

 

Selected Resources for Black History Month

It’s February—Black History Month.

The origins of Black History Month date back to 1926 when the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, as the group is known today, sponsored a week-long focus on the contributions of African Americans to U.S. history. Interestingly, the week purposely coincided with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglas. In 1976, this week expanded into Black History Month and achieved the status as a federally recognized celebration. Every year, the president designates a theme for Black History Month. President Obama designated this year’s theme as “Civil Rights in America.”

The Choices Program has compiled a list of selected resources for educators. These resources touch on a range of topics that certainly deserve year-round attention, not just during the month of February.  I hope you find the list useful as your classrooms take a renewed interest in topics related to Black History Month or at a later point in time.

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 Freedom Now: The Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi [Curriculum]
Today, we think of the key leaders, mass demonstrations, and watershed legislation that have become synonymous with the civl rights movement. Often forgotten are the everyday people who were on the frontlines of the fight for justice and equality, working for change in their home communities.  Students read about the movement that developed in Mississippi, and the ways in which national and local forces interacted at the grass-roots level.

 “Oral Histories: Students in the Civil Rights Movement” [Online Lesson]
Students hear stories from former civil rights activists about what motivated them to join the movement.

“Fifty Years after the March on Washington: 

Students in the Civil Rights Movement” [Online Lesson]
Students listen to stories from former civil rights activists, analyze what motivated students to join the movement, what their experiences were like, and consider the relevance of this history today.

Video interviews with scholars and participants in the civil rights movement

Additional Resources:

The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History: “The Civil Rights Movement”
Includes primary source documents and multimedia accounts of the national civil rights movement. Click on the “Freedom Riders” tab under “Interactive Features” for an in-depth look at the Freedom Rides of the early 1960s.

John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum: “Integrating Ole Miss”
Provides information and primary source documents related to the admission of James Meredith to the University of Mississippi in 1962.

The NAACP Interactive Historical Timeline
This timeline highlights key events of the NAACP’s history and includes photos, video archives, and film clips.

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A Forgotten History: The Slave Trade and Slavery in New England [Curriculum]
Explores the nature of the triangular trade and the extent of slavery in New England. Using readings, primary sources, and simulations, students uncover the effects of the slave trade and slavery for Americans and explore how history, and the telling of history, affects us today.

 “Slavery Connects the North and the South” [Online Lesson]
Students utilize primary source documents to reconstruct the route of an actual slave ship and explore different facets of the slave trade, such as social attitudes and financial dimensions.

Video interviews with scholars on the slave trade  

Additional Resources:

Slave Voyages
The interactive Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database contains more than 34,000 individual slaving expeditions between 1514 and 1866.

African-American Mosaic
A Library of Congress online exhibition with graphics, primary sources, and historical narrative.

Brown University’s Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice
The center’s website features a list of resources (links) to curricula and historical documents on topics including the slave trade and the emancipation proclamation.

 

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The Haitian Revolution [Curriculum]
Through readings, maps, digital activities, and simulations, students consider the development of the American colonial world and the legacies of the only successful slave revolt in the history of the world.

The Haitian Revolution Today” [Online Lesson]
Students use art, music, and literature to consider how Haitians today think about the Revolution.

Video interviews with scholars on the Haitian revolution

Additional Resources: 

The John Carter Brown Library: “Remember Haiti”
A selection of primary documents organized thematically.

 

1890s: The United States Enters the Age of ImperialismScreen Shot 2014-02-11 at 9.49.00 AM 

African-American-Community-Age-of-Imperialism” [PDF Lesson]
Students analyze attitudes of the African-American community towards the Spanish-American War through excerpts from black-owned newspapers. The lesson is part of the curriculum unit Beyond Manifest Destiny: America Enters the Age of Imperialism.

Additional Resources:

National Endowment for the Humanities: “The Birth of an American Empire”
A set of four lessons that provide guiding questions, background information, preparation instructions, and lesson activities.

 

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“African American History Month”
A (fantastic!) collection of resources from the Library of Congress, National Archives, and other organizations. Be sure to click on all of the main tabs, e.g. “Exhibits and Collections,” “For Teachers,” and “Audio/Video.”

National Endowment for the Humanities: History and Social Studies Curricula
These resources are not specifically tailored for Black History Month, but the extensive list of curricula can be searched by selecting subtopics such as “African American,” “Slavery,” and “Civil Rights.”

The History Channel: “Black History Timeline”
This timeline, ranging from 1619 to 2009, provides useful, succinct descriptions of key milestones.

Scholastic: “The Spirit of Service—Student Art Contest”
Challenge your students to participate in this art contest by creating a poster that commemorates the fiftieth anniversary of the March on Washington. Open to K-12.

National Geographic: “Black History Month”
Features a collection of  resources ranging from maps on the underground railroad to an interactive summary of the history of jazz.

Choices International Education Internship

It will have been two years this summer since I joined the team at the Choices Program. I intentionally use the word team to introduce this job posting because my time at Choices has been constantly characterized by collaboration. The first day I started, I remember being asked to share my opinion on a unit that was already close to publication—Freedom Now: The Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi. I read, made edits, and discussed my viewpoint with the other writers. Like that, I was welcomed on board.

Since my first month, I have had the opportunity to research and write on topics ranging from civil rights in Mississippi, to the 1947 partition of the Indian subcontinent, to immigration reform, and the civil war in Syria. And the list goes on. When my friends or people I meet ask me what my day-to-day is like, they find it hard to believe I spend my hours reading history or keeping up with the news, and then finding creative ways to make these topics accessible to high school students. While some are confused by the concept of curriculum development, a common reaction is to comment on how fascinating it must be. I couldn’t agree more!

Coming straight from college, reading, research, and writing are all-too-familiar skills. But it did not take long after beginning my job to recognize the immense opportunities and welcome challenges inherent to working for Choices. Whether it was learning how to frame a complex event in history for fourteen to eighteen year-olds, or pushing myself to interview scholars on topics with which I was previously unfamiliar, my experiences at Choices mark a clear shift from anything I have worked on in the past. More importantly, contributing to the Choices Program has meant working to show students that their opinions on history and current public policies matter. That is truly the best part!

As the International Education Intern, you are involved in almost every part of Choices’ operations. Developing and updating curricula is the main gig, but then there are online Teaching with the News lessons to create, video interviews to help with, marketing materials to edit, and summer institutes to attend (and enjoy). You take away not only expanded skills in research and writing, but also an understanding of how to work with scholars across multiple fields and a familiarity with nonprofit operations in an academic setting. Which leads me to discuss the honor of being part of the Brown University community at large…

If I didn’t have the time in college to see every speaker or attend art openings, I feel that I have had the best of both worlds at Choices; I end the workday at five and have access to all the events of a university campus (and those of RISD as well). Plus, Brown is great to their employees. Free yoga classes, staff days where you get to learn about the history of Brown or sit in on classes, and incredible holiday parties. Needless to say, Brown and Providence have been wonderful and unpredictable places to explore.

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View across the river from the Choices offices.

You should apply for the International Education Internship if you are passionate about international issues, history, policy, and/or education. If you have any questions regarding the position, Choices, Brown University, or living in Providence, I am more than happy to answer them. You can reach me at leahmarieelliott@gmail.com .

In keeping with the BuzzFeed trend of making lists for everything, I’ve compiled two for your viewing pleasure:

Top 6 Memorable Moments as an International Education Intern

  1. Discussing politics with civil rights activist Judy Richardson at the Choices Summer Institute
  2. Searching the Brown archives for the original All-India Census documents from 1931 in order to make a data lesson for our India/Pakistan curriculum
  3. Writing a Teaching with the News lesson on the 2012 Presidential Election
  4. Auditing a class at Brown on modern Indian history
  5. Dropping everything to work with the writing team on a lesson regarding the civil war in Syria when President Obama threatened the U.S. use of force
  6. Meeting all the people who work in my building at the Continuing Education staff development day

5 Things I Didn’t Expect to Take Away from the International Education Internship

  1. A deep interest in the events going on in Egypt
  2. Knowing how to make a digital textbook with iBooks software
  3. The inability to read an article without finding typos or grammatical errors
  4. Understanding (well, sort of) the complex copyright system for photographs and video resources
  5. Knowledge about the quirks and hidden wonders of Rhode Island (our Administrative Manager, Kathie, helped with this one!)

Have You Developed an Innovative Approach to Teaching About September 11?

The 9/11 Tribute Center annually presents awards to teachers who have created exemplary educational projects that help sustain the memory of September 11th. Innovative teachers are honored for how they have engaged their students in the discussion of the ongoing impact of September 11th, and for their focus on humanitarian responses to 9/11. Projects selected have introduced 9/11 through curricula in the arts and humanities: history, language arts, visual, media and performing arts.  Each school receives a financial gift and framed Certificate of Merit, presented during a formal award ceremony.

Submissions should include:

  • Project description
  • The inspiration for the project
  • Examples of resources or lessons plans used
  • Photos of the students working and samples of their project(s) and,
  • Reflections on the experience.

Submissions can be emailed to education@tributewtc.org. Please include your name, school name and address, grade(s) involved in project, and number of class periods used for this project.

More information, including information on past award winners, can be found at tributewtc.org  All applications are due by January 27th, 2014.

Nelson Mandela—”A Giant of History”

President Barack Obama, with UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon and South African President Jacob Zuma.

President Barack Obama with Ban Ki-moon and Jacob Zuma at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service.                                              Source: GovermentZA (CC BY-ND 2.0)

On December 10, the official memorial service for Nelson Mandela was held in Johannesburg, South Africa. Tens of thousands of people from across the world—presidents, prime ministers, and everyday people—gathered for the service. As a nod to Mandela’s lifetime achievements, the memorial service coincided with the United Nations’ Human Rights Day. Coincidently, December 10 also marked the twentieth anniversary of Mandela receiving the Nobel Peace Prize. Mandela received the prize, jointly with Frederik Willem de Klerk, for ending the apartheid regime and laying the foundations for a democratic South Africa.

President Obama spoke at the service, as did dignitaries from Brazil, China, Namibia, India, and Cuba; Ban Ki-moon—secretary general of the United Nations; Jacob Zuma—president of South Africa; Desmond Tutu—South African social rights activist and retired bishop; Nkosazana Dlamini Zum—African Union commission chair; and relatives of Mandela.

“It is hard to eulogize any man—to capture in words not just the facts and the dates that make a life, but the essential truth of a person—their private joys and sorrows; the quiet moments and unique qualities that illuminate someone’s soul. How much harder to do so for a giant of history, who moved a nation toward justice, and in the process moved billions around the world.”

—President Obama, December 10, 2013

President Obama’s point—the difficulty of eulogizing Mandela, “a giant of history,” is true not just for the speakers at the memorial service, but for educators as well. What aspects of Mandela’s life do we focus on in the wake of his passing? His almost twenty-seven years of imprisonment? His relentless campaign against the apartheid regime? His service to South Africa as its first democratically-elected president? His undeniable legacy? These topics are countless and are all well-deserving of our attention.

However, another way to honor Mandela’s achievements and legacy is to focus on the broad themes of resistance in twentieth-century South Africa—resistance to colonialism, to apartheid, and to inequality. There are various online resources that can help educators address these topics in their classrooms. See the list below for recommendations.

Resources

Choices has  Scholars Online Videos available that accompany the curriculum unit  Freedom in Our Lifetime: South Africa’s Struggle.  Many of these videos address topics important to understanding twentieth-century South Africa.

How did apartheid keep people separate?
Newell Stulz, professor emeritus of political science at Brown University

How was apartheid different from other systems of racial division?
Newell Stulz

More Scholars Online Videos

Harvard University’s Committee on African Studies:  “South African Apartheid and the Transition to Democracy”
A PDF file that identifies key themes of the apartheid system and resistance movements for educators. Provides an extensive list of books, documentaries, and websites that address these topics.

“South Africa: Overcoming Apartheid, Building Democracy”
This site provides firsthand accounts of the struggle against apartheid, and includes video, documents, photographs, and interviews as well as historical background.

Google Cultural Institute: Africa Media Online Exhibits
The Google Cultural Institute, a platform for online exhibits, houses nine slideshows from Africa Media Online, an organization that collects and digitizes photographs from across Africa. These exhibits address apartheid signs, the Soweto riots, women activists, the 1913 Land Act, and other topics. Click on “exhibits” on the website to access the slideshows.

African National Congress Archives: Apartheid
Includes photographs, posters, and documents that reflect the African National Congress’ campaign against apartheid.

Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory
Features online exhibits on Mandela’s life and over 300 primary documents related to his work.

 

Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda

On November 8, the typhoon known as “Haiyan” or “Yolanda” made landfall in the Philippines causing unimaginable destruction and loss of life.  As of November 20, an estimated ten million people in the Philippines have been affected and the death toll has risen to over 4,000. These numbers are predicted to climb. The international response—humanitarian assistance in the form of search and rescue operations, the provision of relief supplies, and logistical support—is well under way. The United States government has pledged $37 million in aid. President Obama announced on November 14:

As I told President Aquino earlier this week, the United States will continue to offer whatever assistance we can. Our military personnel and USAID team do this better than anybody in the world. And they’ve been already on the ground working tirelessly to deliver food, water, medicine, shelter and to help with airlift.”

esidents from Tacloban, one the hardest hit cities, wait in line for transportation aboard Philippine and U.S. military cargo flights to other cities such as Manlia and Cebu.USAID/Carol Han, OFDA

Residents from Tacloban, one the hardest hit cities, wait in line for transportation aboard Philippine and U.S. military cargo flights to Manlia or Cebu. November 16, 2013.
(USAID/Carol Han, OFDA)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda has prompted discussions on natural disasters and international relief efforts in your classroom, Choices’ updated unit Dilemmas of Foreign Aid: Debating U.S. Policies (Fifth edition, October 2013) is one way to expand upon the questions and concerns raised by students. In the unit, students explore the history of U.S. foreign assistance and the institutions that distribute aid today. Readings, case studies, and primary sources prepare students to consider the trade-offs of foreign aid and articulate their own views on the future direction of U.S. policy. A large section of Dilemmas of Foreign Aid focuses on humanitarian assistance and raises questions that can be applied to the recent disaster in the Philippines. The unit is available in multiple formats (e.g. print, eText, iBooks Textbook) and meets Common Core standards. 

Additional Resources

  • For information on U.S. humanitarian assistance in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda, visit USAID. The website features a useful factsheet with information on key developments, statistics on the millions of people affected by the typhoon, and a breakdown of U.S. assistance.
  • The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council—part of the government of the Philippines—publishes daily reports (often multiple times a day) with information on causalities, damaged houses, the ongoing emergency response, and international aid.  Note: If you share the reports with students, be advised that the section “Effects of Typhoon “Yolanda” (Haiyan)—Causalities” includes names of the dead and lists the cause of death. You might choose to remove these pages before distributing the reports to students.

50 Years after the March on Washington: Student Activist Stories

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. This day gives us an exceptional reason to reflect on that event, the civil rights struggle, and the challenges that remain. It is important that students not only focus on the philosophy and work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., but also on the experiences of women, students, local organizers, and others who fought for equal rights. In this Teaching with the News lesson, 50 Years after the March on Washington: Student Activist Stories, you will hear the voices of activists who worked in local communities to bring about change. The lesson features short films with three veterans of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC): John Lewis, Judy Richardson, and Charlie Cobb. They share their motivations for joining the movement as young people and describe their daily life in the fight for equal rights. We hope your class (or friends, or whoever you may share this with) will consider what they would have done if they had been students in 1963. What lessons can we learn from these activists? What causes or movements do we feel connected to today?

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This lesson builds off some of the core themes covered in the Choices curriculum, Freedom Now: The Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi, an entire unit dedicated to understanding the local work in Mississippi, from sit-ins to voter registration drives. As your class discusses the March on Washington, consider using these resources and others to incorporate a wide array of perspectives on the movement. Below are a few additional links.

50 Years Forward

PBS: Freedom Riders

Time Magazine: One Dream

Meet the Choices Staff – Tanya – Video and New Media Producer

Tell Us a little about yourself & your background.

I grew up in Hong Kong, went to high school in Switzerland and came to the U.S. for college. I received a B.A. in Modern Culture & Media from Brown, after which I moved to New York City and took a 5-week digital filmmaking course at the New York Film Academy. I started working as a temp for a television/advertising production company that did commercials for clients like the Food Network and HGTV. I worked my way up from production assistant to coordinating producer and editor. It was long hours, demanding clients, crazy deadlines and a lot of fun. After 7 years, I decided it was time for a change so I moved back to Rhode Island and was lucky enough to find a position at Choices as their video producer.

What is your favorite Choices Curriculum Unit? Why?

The Civil Rights unit is one of my favorites because it takes an iconic moment in American history that we’re all familiar with and looks at it through the lens of the local communities and ordinary people (many of whom were high school and college students) who were the real driving force behind the movement. I also like this unit because I interviewed some amazing people for the Scholars Online video portion (former SNCC activists, Brown history professors and Congressman John Lewis) and heard some incredible first-hand accounts of the daily realities of organizing in the South during the 60’s.

I also really like our “Revolution Series” units – French Revolution, Haitian Revolution and Russian Revolution. Revolution itself is such a dramatic and intense event but the back-story that leads up to it is even more fascinating and often full of twists and turns (much like a good narrative film!).

Tell us something interesting about yourself?

Favorite TV shows (currently): The Wire, The Americans, Downton Abbey, Foyle’s War, pretty much anything on PBS Masterpiece.

Favorite food: Anything Japanese. Oh, and bacon.

Favorite sound: My 10-month old son giggling.

What is the best part about working on the Choices Staff?

We all do very different work within Choices and I find that I am always learning new and interesting things from my colleagues. We are also very good at finding any opportunity to celebrate with baked goods at our staff meetings.

If you could trade jobs with any other person on the Choices Staff who would it be and why?

I love my job – why would I trade? (Tough luck for anyone who said they want my job – I’m not giving it up!)

What is your favorite period in history/Topic in social studies?

I don’t really have a favorite. I enjoy learning and I’m always learning something new when I’m working on Scholars Online videos no matter what the topic.

What are you working on now?

I’m currently editing videos for our upcoming unit on India and Pakistan. I also just finished filming a round of interviews for our Vietnam War unit, which has been without videos for far too long. I interviewed some really interesting people (including JFK scholars/historians and Vietnam war veterans) so I’m really looking forward to begin editing. I’m also planning to do a behind-the-scenes video of the making of a Choices unit.
  

Tell us a little about your video production process for Scholars Online.

I work with the curriculum writers to identify scholars who would be interesting to interview and whose field of expertise is relevant to the unit. We have a wealth of faculty at Brown, but I also travel to interview scholars from other institutions and I always keep an eye out for visiting speakers (Congressman John Lewis, for example, was at Brown for a day to receive an honorary degree and we were able to get an interview with him for our Civil Rights unit).

My filming setup includes two cameras, a mic and a light kit and the interviews themselves usually last about an hour (although I’ve had a few that have come close to two hours!). I then edit the media into short videos. Sometimes the editing process takes a couple weeks, sometimes it takes many months – it really depends on the scholar, but I often have to distill a 10 minute answer into a 2-4 minute video, while still making the material accessible to high school students (which, when you’re dealing with college professors can be challenging!). I try and find as much imagery as I can to add to the videos to make them more engaging and to help illustrate what the scholar is saying. I also sometimes create animated graphics for the same purpose.

I then do a screening with the writers to make sure the way that I’ve presented the content is accurate and the videos work with the unit. After making any changes, I send the final videos to the scholars to review and they get posted to our website.

The Costs of War Project

by Josie Perry, Choices Teaching Fellow, Rising Sun High School, MD

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Whenever I am in need of new resources for my Contemporary World Studies course, my first go-to site is always the Choices website.  As I was nearing the end of my unit on Afghanistan, I came across the Costs of War Project in Teaching with the News.  The Costs of War Project allows students “to explore the domestic and international costs and consequences of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.”  The project allows students to go well beyond the financial and human costs of the wars.  Students explore statistics on the wars’ impact on the political, social, and economic lives of Americans, Iraqis, Afghans and Pakistanis.  The project provides students with a different perspective on war and it highlights how the wars have changed things in those countries as well as in the US.

As this was my first time using the Costs of War Project, I followed the lesson plan provided on the Choices website.  Rather than having all students research every topic, I had the students work in cooperative groups to research the various main topics.   Each group member was assigned a subtopic from the website and they worked together to prepare a presentation to share with the class.  As the groups presented, the class took notes on the graphic organizer provided with the lesson.  I used the discussion questions provided within the lesson plan to review with the students what they had learned from the presentations.  As a closure activity, after reading “The Alternatives to A Military Response to 9-11,” I had the students respond to the question “Was military action necessary after 9-11?”  The Costs of War Project and the accompanying lesson are great teaching tools that I will definitely use again!


The Costs of War lesson is a good supplement to A Global Controversy: The U.S. Invasion of Iraq also available in the iBookstore.

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