Teaching Students About International Politics

The world has become increasingly more connected, and with this inter-connectedness it is of even more importance that students gain a deeper understanding of global issues and the role of diplomacy. Share My Lesson has specially curated this collection of resources to help educators teach students about past and present U.S. foreign policies, how foreign policy is developed, the crisis in Ukraine, how international organizations are created and governed, the creation of international law, various international conflicts, and other forms of government in the world.

NATO, Russia and Ukraine

How do alliances shape international relations? In February 2022, the Russian Federation, led by its authoritarian president Vladimir Putin, launched a significant invasion of neighboring Ukraine. Putin justified this in part by claiming that Ukraine’s desire to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO, threatened Russian security. So what is NATO, and why would Russia see it as a potential threat?

Emergency Powers of the President Podcast

If you want to learn about economic sanctions, which are the most common of the president’s emergency powers, and one non-conflict way to exert pressure on a foreign power, check out our episode on emergency powers. You’ll also learn about certain military powers the president has under an emergency declaration. Emergency powers are designed for when plans need to change, and fast, by allowing the president to override certain Constitutional provisions in a time of crisis. But in the last century, national emergencies have gone from a rarity to a tool that presidents use dozens of times while in office. We talk about what a president can (and cannot) do during a state of emergency, and how Congress has tried to put checks on that power, with help from Kim Lane Scheppele, author of Law in a Time of Emergency.

Grades 7-12
Executive Branch/Presidency
Audio

Dictators and Civil Wars: The Cold War in Latin America

This 6-minute video explores how the Cold War was an ideological, and sometimes military, struggle between the United States and the Soviet Union. In general, the Soviet Union supported the expansion of communist governments around the globe, and the United States supported anti-communist regimes, including both democracies and dictatorships. By the 1950s, these tensions were seen in Latin America, and revolutions, coups, and uprisings became commonplace throughout most of the latter half of the twentieth century.

Immigration in the 1990s: Proposition 187

This 9-minute video illustrates how demographic trends and a changing California economy in the 1990s created a backlash against immigration, only to be followed by an even larger one over time. The video shows students how economic and demographic forces affect the strategies of the political parties, and demonstrates how policies like Proposition 187 can produce unintended and surprising consequences. It also draws parallels with some aspects of President Trump’s rhetoric on immigration.

How the Military Response to 9/11 Led to Two Decades of War in Afghanistan

This 12-minute video and lesson plan examine how within weeks of the Sept. 11 terror attacks, the U.S. invaded Afghanistan to attack Taliban strongholds. By the end of the year, the mission’s main goal was accomplished. But shifting objectives led to the expansion of a war that became the longest in U.S. history, and is ending in chaos. This lesson asks students to engage in a “Structured Academic Controversy.” The goal of the activity is for students to analyze sources, classify arguments, and engage in discussion.

Monthly Civics Themes

The Rendell Center has developed monthly themes designed to build basic civic knowledge, promote civic engagement, and provide practice in democratic deliberation. Each month offers an experiential learning opportunity for K-12 students to examine and discuss a new civics topic, with questions and activities designed to help them better understand the concept.

Grades 6, 7, 8, 9, 10
Foundations of Democracy
Lesson Plans

The March Trilogy Lesson Plans

The March trilogy, the informative and eye-catching autobiographical series of novels about the Civil Rights Movement as told from the perspective of former Congressman John Lewis, serves as the backdrop for these downloadable lessons from The Rendell Center. Designed for students in grades 6-10, these lessons educate about civil rights and lead to an engaged discussion on the topic through focused activities.

Grades 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10
History
Lesson Plans

Literature-Based Mock Trial Lessons

This literature based mock trial format provides a dynamic interactive opportunity for K-8 students to develop higher-level thinking skills, as well as gain a deeper understanding of the U.S. judicial system and constitutional principles. The Rendell Center’s Mock Trial framework is easy to follow, and its lesson plans – based on classic or classroom pieces of literature – provide teachers with the tools and guidance needed to help their class write and argue a mock trial, and actively take on the roles of defendant, lawyers, witnesses, jurors, and court officials.

Grades 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
Judicial Branch/Supreme Court
Interactives

Contrasting U.S. Founding Principles & Totalitarianism

Why are the founding principles essential for a free society? This civics and government lesson plan was developed to facilitate instruction and discussion concerning the United States’ founding principles versus totalitarian systems of government. Students will contrast a totalitarian system of government with the founding principles of the United States as established in the Declaration of Independence, the US Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.

Grades 6-12
Foundations of Democracy
Modules (Teaching Unit)