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Teaching Guide: Exploring the Atomic Bomb and the Nuclear Age

This teaching guide helps instructors use a specific primary source set, The Atomic Bomb and the Nuclear Age, in the classroom. It offers discussion questions, classroom activities, and primary source analysis tools. It is intended to spark pedagogical creativity by giving a sample approach to the material. Please feel free to share, reuse, and adapt the resources in this guide for your teaching purposes.

Discussion questions

  1. Using the photograph of the first atomic bomb, the eyewitness account of the Trinity bomb test, and the film showing the destruction of the atomic bomb, describe the scale of destruction caused by the detonation of the atomic bomb.

  2. What is the main message of the 1955 civil defense film? What strategies do the filmmakers use to appeal to children?

  3. Using the evidence in the photograph of members of Non-Violent Action Against Nuclear Weapons, the 1953 cartoon of a hydrogen bomb, and the 1950 cartoon of Death, what were some of the arguments against the atomic bomb and nuclear armament?

  4. Why was the Limited Test Ban Treaty important? What national interests for the US, Britain, and the Soviet Union would it have protected?

  5. Using the items in this set, what connections can you draw between the development of the atomic bomb during the nuclear age and present-day nuclear talks?

Classroom activities

Organize students into two groups to research and then debate the pros and cons of using the atomic bombs dropped on Japan during World War II. Students should use items in this set to support their claims. For an extra level of engagement, have students search through Digital Public Library of America to find additional items for their arguments.

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