When we step into our classrooms tomorrow, it will be with a world crisis unfolding in Russia and Ukraine. This event brings forward a number of questions about the history of this region, an echo of the Cold War era and a modern issue of sovereignty in the shadow of the former USSR. My 7th graders do not know a world where Russia/USSR was the ‘bad guy’ in the news, they do not understand the Cold War, the arms race, and nuclear non-proliferation.

I spent some time this morning seeking out some resources that I can use tomorrow with my students to analyze what is happening in Ukraine/Crimea with Russia.  Here are some of the resources I will be using with them:

If you wanted to dig into the Cold War a little more and understand the arms race and the US/USSR relationship prior to 1991

While not a comprehensive list, it is a slice of the available information on this developing world crisis. Big question is going to be around why this region is in such demand with both countries, how it came to be part of Ukraine and not Russia in the modern era and what this means for the United States.

  1. What is going on in Crimea?
  2. Why is this region in such demand for both Ukraine and Russia?
  3. Historically, what role has this region played in European history?
  4. What has the response been from other European nations?
  5. What does the turmoil in this region disrupt the flow of resources in Europe?
  6. What might the role of NATO be in this crisis?
  7. What might the role of the UN be in this crisis?
  8. What is the official US stance on this move by Russia? 
  9. Historically, how does this remind Americans of the Cold War?
  10. What might this mean for the US?

Possible approaches:

  • If you only have a bit of time, outline the basic facts and let students pepper questions for a few minutes, revisit throughout the week
  • Send students into the historical information to parse out why Crimea is important and how Ukraine was formed in the modern era
  • Evaluate the role of NATO and UN in these world crisis situations
  • Evaluate the role of Russia and Ukraine in providing Europe necessary resources
  • Evaluate the statements by the United States government and determine possible options for US response
  • Review the Cold War – how is this reminiscent, how is this different?

Any of these items could take an hour, you could also take a number of these and jigsaw them and then let students share information and then try to predict what they US will do, ‘should’ do, would do based on historical pattern, or answer the question… who has the credible claim to control the area in Crimea and why? This could be an easy way to ask students to use evidence to back up their ideas, that they need to not just have an idea, but back it up with a credible source. Whatever you do to open class tomorrow, please take a moment to review the news and keep students in the know about the world around them. Their ability to understand the social studies becomes infinitely more meaningful when they can make connections between what they are learning about the past and what is happening in the news today.