Warring Philosophies: The Cold War
By: Sara P. Chavarria and Sally Rusk

Time: 1 class lesson – 1 _ class lessons
Prep Time: Photocopies of Handouts 1 and 2 for each student.
Materials: Teacher’s Background Notes
Handout 1: The Cold War: Which is Which?
Handout 2: The Cold War: Understanding the Client States


Despite the creation of the United Nations, the world entered a new period of conflict with the rise of two superpowers with conflicting systems: capitalist democracy and communism. The two countries competed in everything from weapons to space exploration, and of course international influence. Throughout the world, alliances and deals were struck, by both the USA and USSR, in an effort to control resources and technology on a global scale. In this lesson, students discuss the Cold War and the alliances and international organizations that resulted from this conflict.

Through Textbook research, students will be able to identify the differences between the USA and USSR during the Cold War.

Standards (NCHS)
1. Students will understand and be able to explain why the Cold War took place and ended and assess its significance as a 20th-century event.

Resource Websites



1. Sertting the stage. Give each student a copy of Handout 1. Students will fill out the sheet in order to better comprehend the difference between the two philosophies. (~7 minutes)
2. When done, review the answers with the students to make sure they have the correct information.
3. On the back of the sheet have the students write the following notes:

The Cold War was about an Arms Race and a Space Race with strong Economic implications.
*Arms Race:
Russia is upset that the USA ‘secretly’ built the atomic bomb leading to a healthy distrust of the USA. Both sides built inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) that could wipe out each other and the entire world. The race for having the most destructive weapon continued to see-saw.

Special Preventative measures needed to be put in place in the form of a hotline was set-up between the US and the USSR and a treaty (Nuclear Test-Ban Agreement 1963) was signed by both counties to reduce risk of accidental nuclear war and to end nuclear testing.

*Space Race:
This was a power gambit to showcase each countries technological advancements. This begins when the Russians are the first to put a space ship in outer space with the Launching of Sputnik 1 (space satellite). The US meets the challenge by putting the first person on the moon.

*Economic implications:
To the United States, Communism was a threat to US business since communist countries would not purchase products from the US. This scared the USA since they did not want to experience another depression. To Russia, it had suffered enormous destruction during WWII with a loss of 25 million citizens and was determined that it would never be invaded again. It did so by buffering itself with Eastern European countries (Poland, E. Germany, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, and Czechoslovakia), creating the USSR. These countries were referred to as Satellite States.

Examples of Satellite States:
The Berlin wall (1961) went up dividing Germany into two parts – one part supported by communism (E. Germany was next to the USSR), the other by capitalism (W. Germany). The non-tangible “Iron curtain” was created in which Russia enveloped smaller countries (known as satellites) just outside its borders to buffer against capitalist and socialist countries. The Cuban Missile Crisis (1962) was when USSR came into Cuba to build armaments in support of Communist Cuba. They left without doing so.

4. Give each student Handout 2. Give students time to fill out the sheets using their book as a resource. ( 15 minutes).

5. Using your background notes give students correct answers.

6. Vocabulary Hunt: Using their notes, have students locate the following terms and confirm that they have a good definition or explanation for each one.

Vocabulary/Events that students must comprehend:
Client States
Arms Race
Space Race
Satellite countries
Iron Curtain
Berlin Wall
Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles
Cuban Missile Crisis
Warsaw Pact


7. Closure. End the lesson by posing the question: Why did the Cold War happen? Make sure students understand that the Cold War was a ‘fight’ over land and philosophy. This is seen through the US containment policy to stop communism from spreading to other countries. Obviously, the USSR wanted to convert as many countries to its philosophy. The US wanted to stop the spread of it.
Another reason it happened was because there was concern over the idea of a nuclear war. A nuclear war would be devastating to land, lives, and other animals. So an arms race began in which both superpowers competed technologically to keep up with each other. This way, no one had the upper hand.

Embedded Assessment

PULSE is a project of the Community Outreach and Education Program of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center and is funded by:

NIH/NCRR award #16260-01A1
The Community Outreach and Education Program is part of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center: an NIEHS Award


Supported by NIEHS grant # ES06694

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