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  Hook | Questions | Procedures | Data Investigation | Analysis | Findings | New Questions  

The Hook is intended to spark interest in the topic and lead students to ask questions or make predictions.

U.S. Constitution
Classroom Constitution
Here are two pictures; one shows the US Constitution, the other shows a Classroom Constitution from a 1st grade class in California (you may click on the US constitution for more information).  Both documents contain a set of agreed upon rules and understandings that help guide a community of people.  Both of these communities have leaders.  Just as the President of the United States leads the American community, your teacher leads your classroom community. 

Every day both your teacher and the President make decisions that affect a community.  Does your teacher ever have to make difficult decisions?  Does the President? 

Think of a difficult decision your teacher has made.  What does your teacher consider when s/he makes a decision.  How does their decisions effect you and your classmates?

Do you think that you could make a decision that effected all of you classmates?  How about a decision that effected everyone in the United States?

This is the summary of the Cuban Missile Crisis we provided the students, along with some questions for them to consider.

Let us think about a situation that led to a difficult decision for one of our former Presidents. John F. Kennedy was our President about 40 years ago. In 1962 President Kennedy learned that Russian leaders were putting nuclear missiles in a country called Cuba which is very close to the United States (click here to see a map). Although Russian and the United States are friends now, they did not get along in 1962. President Kennedy did not want nuclear missiles close to the United States because they could have killed almost everyone in our country. In order to protect the safety of the American community President Kennedy needed to do something. This was a difficult decision for President Kennedy. He wanted to convince the Russians to remove their missiles from Cuba without starting a large war. This time in history came to be known as the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Here are some questions you might think about:

President John F. Kennedy - 1962

1. What sort of things did President Kennedy have to consider when making his decision?

2. What actions did Kennedy take before making his decision? What was the ultimate decision that was made?

3. Who helped the president make his decision?

4. Would you have made the same decision as Kennedy? What would you have done differently?



After students have asked questions related to the topic, they will need to decide a number of things, including:

  • Type(s) of data needed to answer the questions
  • Defining important terms
  • Choosing tools for data manipulation
  • Defining how data will be manipulated and presented

Type(s) of Data


Defining Important Terms

Nuclear - [in this case] a weapon whose destructive power derives from an uncontrolled nuclear reaction

Cold War - a conflict over ideological differences carried on by methods short of sustained overt military action and usually without breaking off diplomatic relations; specifically the ideological conflict between the US and the USSR

Cuba - a island nation south of the United States.

Missile - An object or weapon that is fired, thrown, dropped, or otherwise projected at a target; a projectile.

Communism - A system of government in which the state plans and controls the economy and a single, often authoritarian party holds power, claiming to make progress toward a higher social order in which all goods are equally shared by the people.

Red Threat - A term used by Americans for communism.

Investigation Tool(s)

  • Computer with Internet connection
  • Pencil and Paper or computer (with Inspiration and a word processor) to create a concept map and write their responses to the questions

Manipulating Data

Using the questions provided above, the students will create a concept map (on paper or with Inspiration®) which will show the different aspects of Kennedy's decision, and the resources they analyzed and investigated to answer the Inquiry questions.


Data Investigation

In order to allow students to thoroughly explore the historical events, we have provided them with a number of links allowing them to learn more about the Cuban Missile Crisis and how Kennedy resolved the issue.  Some of the links that we have included are:  



Raw data/information usually has to be manipulated before it can answer any questions. Students might be unaware of how data can best be manipulated, so teacher guidance may be appropriate.

The students need to find a visualize there analysis of JFK's thinking. You should be open to whatever they come up with but we have found that a 'brainstorm' chart, like the ones you see below, is a effective method to visualize and link different ideas. The three charts below show the steps taking towards developing an answer. These charts were created with Inspiration®, but could have been done with just pencil and paper. Click on the image to view the chart fullsize.

Step 1

click for fullsize image

Step 2

click for fullsize image

Step 3

Below are summaries of the answers students might come up with for the questions we provided. There may or may not be definitive answers to the questions students raised.

Question 1.    What sort of things did President Kennedy have to consider when making his decision? 

Students might come up with: Keeping American's safe and avoiding Nuclear War.  How Russia might react to any actions made by the US  How the rest of the world community would perceive his decision.

Question 2.    What actions did Kennedy take before making his decision?  What was the ultimate decision that was made? 

Students might come up with: Kennedy wrote letters to Russian leader Nikita Khrushchev.  He addressed the nation.  He confronted Russia at the United Nations.  Kennedy put a naval blockade around Cuba.

Question 3.    Who helped the president make his decision?

Students might come up with:
Adlai Stevenson, Robert S. McNamara (Secretary of Defense), Robert Kennedy (Attorney General and his brother).

Question 4.    Would you have made the same decision?  What would you have done differently?

Ideally students can express their ideas about this question in a brief paper and support their opinions using examples of realistic considerations made by President Kennedy. 


Possible New Questions
Answers often lead to new questions, starting the inquiry cycle over again. Here are some here follow up questions students might have and wish to investigate at a later time.

  • What might have happened if President Kennedy had taken alternate actions?
  • What other monumental decisions have presidents made throughout US History? (This question can lead to many, many other inquiry projects that explore historical situations related to cause and effect).