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The United Nations; who they are and why they have your back; or do they?

Lesson Author
Required Time Frame
4-6 hours or class periods (2 which will be used merely for teacher supervised research and group creativity AND 2 which will be used for student led oral presentations of their power points and discussion)
Grade Level(s)
Lesson Abstract
Students will do individual exploratory research, using the internet and primary documents provided, which they will utilize in the group creation of a power point presentation over at least three accomplishments/events/activities

Homework and class work:  Students will do individual exploratory research, using the internet and primary documents provided, which they will utilize in the group creation of a power point presentation over at least three accomplishments/events/activities, which are relevant to the mission of the United Nations, during a specific decade from the creation of the United Nations until the present time period. They will include a paragraph explaining the cause/effect of each item. (Other options, other than power points, could include project boards or time lines which would not require the use of technology usage).  

Students will, in 7 groups, be given 1 of each of the 7 decades, identifying, defining, and explaining main functions of the United Nations during their specific era,  and will share with the class their findings and inferences. Included in their research will be military, humanitarian (health), economic, and/or agricultural actions. They will also discuss any criticism over their event/issue and how critics thought they were justified in those criticisms. Their thesis statement, when giving their presentation, will be to give their own analysis and examination over the success of the UN during their specific decade, supporting their inference with examples/primary documents.

(Additional/enrichment activities: Students will prepare a paragraph over a NGO, using websites provided, to compare/contrast with others in a class discussion)

Rationale (why are you doing this?)

Students will gain an understanding of the need for the creation of the UN; they will be able to identify and clarify what/who it is; they will gain a deeper rational as to why people criticized/opposed it; they will see what nations/groups of people it has helped and its success; finally, they will develop their own inferences at to its importance today, citing primary sources in support of their thesis of whether it has truly reached its mission during their specific decade.  

Lesson Objectives - the student will
  1. Understand through exploration and discovery, what the mission and basic operation of the UN is and why the United Nations, as an international organization, was needed along with being able to define and identify the 5 branches of the UN and their main functions
  2. Will develop an understanding/comprehension of how the UN was a result of the international issues of the 1900’s through their creation of a group generated power point presentation (could possible do one of the other options) of some of the important historical events occurring within the UN realm during a specific decade
  3. Discuss some of the criticisms of the UN, from the past and present and the critics’ justifications
  4. Demonstrate inquiry, synthesis, and technology skills through research

(Enrichment activity objectives:  Classify, compare, contrast, and clarify the importance of NGO’s and their relationships to each other and within the UN)

District, state, or national performance and knowledge standards/goals/skills met


V. Individuals, Groups, & Institutions

Social studies programs should include experiences that provide for the study of interactions among individuals, groups, and institutions, so that the learner can:

 c. identify examples of institutions and describe the interactions of people with institutions;

 f. give examples of the role of institutions in furthering both continuity and change;

IX. Global Connections

Social studies programs should include experiences that provide for the study of global connections and independence, so that the learner can:

b. give examples of conflict, cooperation, and interdependence among individuals, groups, and nations;

e.  examine the relationships and tensions between personal wants and needs and various global    concerns, such as use of imported f. investigate concerns, issues, standards, and conflicts related to universal human rights, such as the treatment of children, religious groups, and effects of war. oil, land use, and environmental protection



3. principles and processes of governance systems

6. relationships of the individual and groups to institutions and cultural traditions

7. the use of tools of social science inquiry (such as surveys, statistics, maps, documents)



Reading Standards for Informational Text 6-12

Key Ideas and Details

Grade 8 students will:

  1. Cite the textual evidence that most strongly supports an analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text

Craft and Structure

Grade 8 students will:

  1. Analyze in detail the structure of a specific paragraph in a text, including the role of particular sentences in developing and refining a key concept.
  2. Determine an author’s point of view or purpose in a text and analyze how the author acknowledges and responds to conflicting evidence or viewpoints.

Writing Standards 6-12

Grade 8 students will:

Text Types and Purposes

  1. Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas, concepts, and information through the selection, organizations, and analysis of relevant content.

b. Develop the topic with relevant, well-chosen facts, definitions, concrete details, quotations, or other information and examples.


Speaking and Listening Standards 6-12

Grade 8 students will:

Comprehension and Collaboration

  1. Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 8 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.
    1. Come to discussions prepared having read or researched material under study; explicitly draw on that preparation by referring to evidence on the topic, text, or issue to probe and reflect on ideas under discussion.



Concept 6.  Knowledge of relationships of the Individual and groups to Institutions and cultural traditions

  1. Knowledge of how needs of individuals are met

Analyze how the needs of individuals are met by families, friends, groups and organizations, such as governments, businesses, schools, religious institutions and charities in the United States and other nations (SS6 1.6, 1.9)


Concept 7.  Knowledge of the use of tools of social science inquiry (such as surveys, maps, and documents) 

  1. Identify, select, use, analyze and create appropriate resources, primary and secondary, for social science inquiry

Select, investigate, and present a topic using primary and secondary resources, such as oral interview, artifacts, journals, documents, photos and letters (SS7 1.2, 1.4, 2.1)

Primary sources needed (document, photograph, artifact, diary or letter, audio or visual recording, etc.) needed
  1. Pictures from UN provided website numbered below for corresponding decades (although this is not a complete list and students may use others to help support their thesis):
    1. 1950s - # 188661, 188659, and 188662
    2. 1960s - # 114341
    3. 1970s - # 817
    4. 1980s - # 85967
    5. 1990s - # 521191
    6. 2000s - # 23221, 24885, and 25776
    7. 2010s - # 46653
  2. Landmark Documents (although this is not an exhaustive list)
    1. “The Universal Declarations of Human Rights” – for all decades
    2. “1979 - Elimination of Discrimination against Women” – 1970’s
    3. “Charter of the UN” – for all decades
  3. Documents from the United Nations Security Council Resolutions
    1. 1948 – “Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide”
    2. 1950s – resolutions # 82-85 and 88 (complaints against Korea)
    3. 1960s – resolutions # 133, 136, 139-142, 147-155, and 158-160 (admission of new nations, tell where and why)
    4. 1970s – resolution # - 282 (question over apartheid)
    5. 1980s – resolutions # - 465, 467-71, 474,  476, 478, 481, and 484-85 (Israel)
    6. 1990s – resolutions # - 651, 660-662, 664-67, 669-71, 674, and 676-78 (Iraq)
    7. 2000s – resolutions # - 1289, 1291-92, 1294-99, 1301-04, 1308-09, 1312-1318, AND especially 1314 (Situations in Africa, Armed Children)
    8. 2012s – resolutions # - S/RES/1931,1932, 1954,1955, and 1966 (situations over Rwanda and previous problems in Yugoslavia)
  4. Letters (not an exhaustive list, however, an example)
    1. Dated 22 November, 1997 – from the Executive Chairman of the Special Commission established by the Secretary-General.
    2. Dated 27, January 1999, from the Permanent Republic of the Netherlands and Slovakia to the UN.
  1. Truman Library letters/documents/memos to be looked at by all groups (although this is not an exhaustive list) :
    1. Letter, dated April 18, 1945, from John Ross Delafield to President Harry S. Truman, forwarding a copy of notes made by himself and Oxford professor Robert McElroy of what they thought essential in the United Nations organization, and noting a conversation between himself and Franklin D. Roosevelt concerning a post-war United Nations organization, and presidential secretary William Hassett’s April 21, 1945 note thanking Delafield. From the Papers of Harry S. Truman, Official File. – use to help explain whose idea the UN was.
    2. Text of President Harry S. Truman’s address to the delegates to the United Nations Conference on International Organization, dated April 25, 1945, in which he invokes the spirit of common humanity and describes the task of the delegates: to create the structure of the United Nations organization. From the Papers of Harry S. Truman Official File. – use to help explain the need for the creation of the UN
    3. Memorandum, by United Nations Secretary