November 2018

From Cold War to Hot Topic: how designing a nuclear bunker can help students see their world in a new light.


2018 has been a roller-coaster year for nuclear news: US/North Korea relations have yielded both a summit and a denuclearisation statement, but concerns remain; in some cases governments have even been preparing their citizens for nuclear attack; and elsewhere we look  to emergency ‘hotlines’ between world leaders to avoid escalating conflicts. The past 12 months have seen an increase in conversations around nuclear weapons politics, often echoing in character the kinds of Cold War sentiments that are usually consigned to the history books; in fact, President Trump, with his proposed INF Treaty withdrawal, threatens to usher in a ‘new Cold War‘ altogether…

Dial M for Missile, a free teaching resource from CND Peace Education, is available to help students link the uncertainties of our times with those of the Cuban Missile Crisis. By using historical stimuli to think across the curriculum and outside of the classroom, the resource prompts students to reflect critically and creatively on the world they live in.

Illustration of school children beneath a globe surrounded by nuclear weapons and warheads, each primed on a different part of the world. CND logo in the bottom corner, and the title, 'Dial M for Missile' across the top.Dial M for Missile: Recreating the past, reflecting on today

The teaching pack provides a way for teachers to get students thinking about controversial issues that are less often discussed. It encourages what Teach Secondary has called “a balanced and multidimensional exploration of peace and nuclear issues [that] promotes critical thinking without hysteria”. In one lesson, students design their own nuclear bunkers, and work together to devise how they might survive a nuclear winter, whilst considering the effectiveness of public education and civil defence, then and now. In another, they evaluate propaganda and the effect media can have on influencing civil society – an especially useful skill to develop in an era of Big Lies and Fake News.

Cross-curricular creativity

Dial M for Missile aims to capture students’ imagination as they recreate for themselves the threats posed by nuclear Armageddon. Far from being the remnant of a bygone era, ‘Red Telephone’ relations continue to exist behind closed doors, and can arrest our attentions now, as they did then, as the lines between fantasy and reality begin to blur:

 (Threats of Armageddon, East/West divisions, and secret Cabinet meetings are fodder for sensational media thrills, then as now – as this recent trailer demonstrates.)

Much more than being just a resource for History or Government & Politics, the teaching pack has direct links with numerous other syllabi, such as:

  • Citizenship, through its exploration of citizens’ experiences and social movements during the Cold War, and its prompting of students to think critically about their own position in civil society.
  • English, by encouraging spoken language development and the analysis of fiction and non-fictional, from propaganda, to Raymond Briggs’ ‘When the Wind Blows’.
  • Drama and Art, as it asks students to devise and design creative responses to tasks, including role-play and critical inquiry with visual sources.
  • Maths, offering an exercise working with codes.
A student designs their own peace symbol
Weaving creativity throughout the curriculum, CND Peace education tackles controversial issues in novel and new ways.

CND Peace Education

The seven lessons provided in the teaching pack, which can be used independently or in a sequence forming part of a scheme of work, represent an “excellent cross curricular resource that helps students see one of the most important historical events from a lot of different perspectives”.

The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament’s Peace Education programme engages school students across England with free, highly interactive and informative lesson plans and resources. We also offer to run free workshops and assemblies, which feature collaborative learning methods such as role-play, group presentations, and debates. All sessions and teaching packs help to meet SMSC and Prevent requirements, and can be tailored to suit different abilities and needs. Several of our resources have garnered 5-star ratings as TES Resources, and were downloaded almost 10,000 times last academic year, when we delivered school sessions to over 5,500 students.


Dial M for Missile is the most recent teaching pack from CND Peace Education, and has achieved excellent feedback:

‘Dial M for Missile is a sensitive, factual and engaging resource… Students enjoyed the process of learning very difficult concepts in meaningful ways. Lesson provided time for reflection and discussion as well as a clear structure to guide less experienced trainers. I was impressed by the quality of resources and the very practical nature of delivery. The series of lessons proved useful during GCSE History and Citizenship lessons and have application to a wider range of topics. The booklet has direct and clear links to British values and SMSC, an excellent and useful tool for the classroom.
– Sera Shortland, Citizenship Coordinator, Hamilton College, Leicester


‘The resource fits together remarkably well, with a good range of activities which recognise a range of learning styles. Dial M is a truly cross-curricular resource which could be used in a range of subjects, including on a collapsed timetable day. The impartiality of the activities and information is impressive.’
– Ralph Leighton, PGCE 11-18 Citizenship Course Leader,
Canterbury Christ Church University


‘A great example of rigorous peace education, Dial M for Missile brings a key Cold War episode to life. It allows learners to explore the psychology and dilemmas of the time, not just for the decision-makers in Washington and Moscow, but ordinary people trying to comprehend the possibility of Armageddon. The moral reasoning, critical enquiry and range of cross-curricular skills these lessons foster are the ingredients of active citizens.’
– Ellis Brooks, Peace Education & Engagement Coordinator,
Quaker Peace & Social Witness.


From code-breaking, to ‘The War Game’, students are put in a wide-variety of situations, which prompt them to think critically, creatively, and collaboratively. The teaching pack and its variety of lessons gives teachers the opportunity to engage students in ways that make links between subjects as different as Maths and English, and between times as different as  1962 and today. Replete with opportunities for active learning and open discussion, Dial M for Missile is a valuable tool for shaking up the classroom, in which students aren’t taught what, but how, to think.

You can browse and download Dial M for Missile here.