CBC Digital Archives

Lesson Plan: For Teachers: What Was the Cold War About?

History, Social Studies
1 lesson
To obtain background information about the Cold War and its impact on Canadian society and politics
In this introductory activity, students explore the site to gather some first impressions of the Cold War era and its impact on Canadian society and politics.

Lesson Plan

Before Exploring

Ask students if they have ever heard the term "Cold War", and what, if anything, it means to them. List responses on the board. Then ask what they know about the period from the end of World War II to the fall of communism in the late 1980s and early 1990s, especially the relations between the United States and the former Soviet Union. Again, record their responses.

If necessary, provide some background information to balance student responses.

Ask: why would this period of time have been called the "Cold War"? Why would it pose such a threat to world peace and possibly human survival on the planet.

Outline the Opportunity

Have students browse the Cold War Culture topic on the CBC Digital Archives website for as much time as they wish, listening to the audio clips and viewing the visuals. Ask them to prepare a summary of the information they were able to gather about the Cold War and its impact on Canada, using the following questions (also available as a download sheet) as a focus for their inquiry:


When was the atomic bomb first used? What country used it, and why? What effects did it have on the cities on which it was dropped?

Why was the development of nuclear weapons in the postwar era a potential threat to humanity?

What countries did many Canadians and Americans blame for starting the "Cold War," and why?

What steps did the Canadian government take to prepare citizens for the possibility of a nuclear attack? How did some Canadian families prepare themselves for a nuclear attack?

What was the "Emergency Measures Organization" (EMO), and why was it such an important part of Canada's civil defence program during the Cold War era?

What criticisms did some Canadians make of the government's civil defence measures during this time? Why did they make them?

What was the "Voice of Women" (VOW)? What position did its members take regarding the Cold War, Canada's role in it, and government civil defence measures?

What was the "Diefenbunker"? Why was it given this nickname? Why is it considered a "relic" of the Cold War today?

Who were the "atomic guinea pigs" of the Cold War in Canada? In what way could they be viewed as victims of this period?


Revisit and Reflect

Ask students to share the information they were able to gather from the site, and any first impressions of the Cold War era they gained from it. Then ask: What do you think it would have been like to grow up in Canada during the Cold War era? Students should be encouraged to share their opinions about this question, and state their views about the various impacts of the Cold War on Canadian society and politics during the 1950s and 60s.



Have students form small groups. In role as a Canadian family during the Cold War, they should present a brief skit or dramatization of a dinner-table conversation about building a nuclear fallout shelter in their backyard. Following each presentations, conduct a debriefing exercise where students share their responses to the presentation.

Download PDF

Related Content

D-Day: Canadians Target Juno Beach

They sailed in under cover of darkness to smash down the walls of "Fortress Europe." On June 6...

1942: War effort spreads to butter

Government adds butter to the growing list of rationed food.

1944: 91 die in sinking of HMCS Shawinigan

A Second World War veteran recalls the day a German U-boat sank the ill-fated Canadian warship...

1944: Polish resistance launches Warsaw Upris...

Forty years later, Polish-Canadians remember their 63-day struggle against Nazi rule during th...

Cold Cases: Unsolved Crimes in Canada

They are the heartwrenching stories that shock whole communities, bringing waves of fear and s...

Samantha Nutt: This I believe

The doctor and founder of War Child Canada describes the devastating impact of war and conflic...