Adult Ed
Science of War


Introductory Activity
Learning Activity
Culminating Activity
Cross-curricular Extensions
Community Connections

Introductory Activity: Setting the Stage

Step 1 Step 1: In this activity you will establish a context for war in terms of natural resources. Provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by asking them to make a list of natural resources available in the U.S., the Caribbean, the Middle East, Africa and Europe. Document student responses on the board. Student responses might show largely agricultural resources in the U.S. and Caribbean. Africa has many mineral ores and diamonds. Europe is also rich in mineral resources. The Middle East, in addition to high concentrations of ore, is a major supplier of oil to the rest of the world.

PLAY tape from the beginning, you will see an open terrain. You will hear the sound of wind blowing. PAUSE tape when the narrator states, "rare and valuable elements found in a few scattered areas". You will see a woman drilling. Provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by asking students to identify what is meant by the statement "scarcity inspires a search for substitutes". With industrial growth, the demand for resources increases. When it is difficult to find these resources, there are two options: develop pathways to the source or create new products that offer similar benefits with available resources. RESUME play. PAUSE tape when narrator says, "our past and our future are in the chemistry of earth". You will see the image of flowing lava. Check for understanding.

FAST FORWARD to the image of a man standing in front of a spinning globe. Provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by asking them to explain the statement: "civilization exists by geological consent". RESUME play. PAUSE tape when the narrator explains the quote from William Durant, he will be standing in front of a globe holding a piece of chromium. The narrator explains that global economics, politics and patterns of trade are all dictated by the resources found in the earth's composition in different locations around the world. He identifies regions of abundance for oil, chromium, platinum and diamond; he also makes a reference to the context for conflict between Saudi Arabia and Israel.

RESUME play; distribute a World Map template to all students during the next segment. Provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by asking them to record the difference between a mineral and an ore on the back of their template. Instruct them to label the region described in the video as the "African Bush Belt" and indicate which mineral resources are abundant there. STOP tape when narrator states, "the fortunes of whole governments, their rise and fall, are based on the wealth found in their natural treasury." You will see a mound of cascading coal. A mineral is a naturally occurring substance with a characteristic chemical composition. Ores are concentrated, valuable minerals. The African Bush Belt is found in southern Africa where platinum, rhodium and chromium are abundant.

As a means for checking understanding, provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION. Ask them why chromium is an important resource? If students are unable to answer the question, REWIND the tape to the point at which the male narrator is standing in front of the globe and REPLAY. Chromium is used in the manufacture of stainless steel and is used to make hubcaps and jet engines. Students could also fill in resources on the World Map template discussed in the video. The male speaker points those locations out on the globe as he delivers his commentary.

Learning Activity

Step 1 Step 1: Provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by asking them to identify the first documented incidence where chemical warfare was used. Ask students to identify the first 20th century incidence of chemical warfare. You can compare the difference between biological and chemical warfare and set-up a debate in class about the pros and cons of each strategy as a part of a group project. Log onto the CBS News site on Biological and Chemical threat: timeline..
The first recorded use of chemical warfare was in 432 B.C in the Peloponnesian War. Chlorine gas was used in WWI by Germany to kill 800 troops. The difference between chemical and biological weapons is that in the former, a non-living substance (chemical compound) is used rather than a living substance. The use of microorganisms and the propagation of infection by exposure are examples of biological warfare. Below is a chart of information provided using the CBS News site.

Middle Ages423 B.C.
17547th c.
179615-16th c.
Late 60s1917
1970sPost WWI
2001Late 70s

Step 2Provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by asking them to identify the names of five key scientists responsible for advancing nuclear physics. Log onto the site timeline page for the 1930s, Examples include: Einstein, Chadwick, Rutherford, Szilard, Fermi, Meitner, Joilot

Step 3Provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by asking them to consider why scientists like the ones described in Step 2 are vital parts of foreign policy. Ask students to access Albert Einstein's letter to President Franklin D. Roosevelt. What economic event revealed in the letter could have provided insight into war strategies planned by German forces? Einstein warned Roosevelt in his closing statements that Germany had stopped the sale of uranium from its Czechoslovakian mines. Since uranium was an extremely valuable resource, largely because of its scarcity, it seems that German officials were probably aware of the potential for mass destruction that uranium-fueled weapons could yield.

Culminating Activity

Step 1 Understanding nuclear research in the Cold War era and beyond. The Non-Proliferation Treaty limiting nuclear research, development and exchange of weapons of mass destruction went into force in 1970. While limiting research, it did not stop research. Many nations did not fully know the total ramifications of nuclear power and while many others were eager to explore it as a potential energy source. The Chernobyl disaster of 1986 was a primary example of the consequences of ignorance. Provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by asking them to identify the number of people affected by the Chernobyl disaster according to some estimates found on; what is the estimated cost of this accident? Allow students two-three minutes to find the answer. It is estimated that over 15 million people have been victimized by the disaster in some way and that it will cost over 60 Billion dollars to make these people healthy.

Step 2Understanding residual effects of war-population effects. Log onto Demographic Trends site at Scroll to page 18 (of 222) of the PDF file. Ask students to print out page 18: Figure 1-2. Provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by asking them to explain the trend in world population from 1920 to 1960. Ask students to draw arrow labels through the "Baby Boom Generation" and "Generation X". There is a population increase from 1920-30 that declines sharply from 1930-40, the period in World history noted for WWI and WWII. After WWII, there was population recovery. Between 1950 and 1960 there was a substantial increase in population, the second largest increase (by %) of the century. From 1960-70 there is a notable decrease in population growth. The generation of people born from 1940 to 1960 is known as the "baby boom generation". Generation X is the label given to people born from 1960 to 1980. Looking at the data, it might be extendable to those born through 1990; there is less than 10% difference in population growth from the 80s to the 90s.

Cross-curricular Extensions

Study the letters of famous people: ways in which they are used to influence the opinions of governmental leaders. Use Einstein's first and second letters to FDR or Martin Luther King's letter from the Birmingham Jail to show the differences in content but similarities in passion. Engage students in a letter-writing campaign to a school, local or national leader as a form of persuasive writing.

Using the printout of Population Increase by Decade from the U.S. Census Bureau site, ask students to calculate the actual values represented as percents in the bottom portion of the page using the numerical increase (top graph) as a guide.

Ask students to graph specific population data obtained by the World Population website World Population Prospects: The 2002 Population Revision Database. This interactive site allows students to gather information about the populations of various countries and geographic regions over time. Basic or detailed information can be accessed for several variables. Students can develop graphs by hand or by using a spreadsheet software program. For example, students may compare age of people 15-64 in up to five different regions over the period 1960 to 2000. Forty years of data will be presented in chart format, which can then be copied and pasted into an Excel file or plotted on graph paper. Use the World Map template to make sure that students have recorded the definition, characteristics and examples of countries or regions classified as more developed, less developed and least developed.

Investigate the chemical properties and history of several of the chemical elements noted in the lesson as mineral ores. Log onto Chemical, a site designed to provide encyclopedic information on most of the elements known to man. Students will have an opportunity to practice chemical name and symbol recognition while gaining insight into the elements and their common uses.

Cross-reference the WNET Adult Education lesson P.O.W.: Products of War. Consider the challenges facing Pres. Truman upon the death of Pres. Roosevelt. Why was it necessary for both presidents to secure the loyalty of African-Americans in general and especially in the military in light of recent scientific discoveries?

Community Connections

Use the U.S. Department of State website to investigate the demographic characteristics of countries engaged in war. Compare the characteristics of two countries in opposition to each other within the conflict. Contrast those characteristics to a country not engaged in war. Identify patterns/trends in characteristics of countries viewed as allies.

Science is a cooperative process that is increasingly becoming a global enterprise. View a short segment from Episode 4 of The Unseen Life on Earth program, "Reading the Code of Life" on the Annenberg CPB Channel ( to gain insight into the work microbiologists are performing to better understand the environmental impact of disaster from the perspective of a scientist. The video shows the collaborative nature of science research; scientists in three different labs collaborate to study the long-term effects of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, patterns of microevolution and microbial resistance. Viewing time-5:06 minutes-10:00 to 15:06 of the 25:45 program. Registration is required to view the program and Windows Media Player plug-in is required.


Further study
War and Recovery: the economic benefits of war are presented in this essay. Links to more information about the economic history of the United States are provided. The essay was written by Dr. Carole E. Scott, a Professor of Economics at the State University of West Georgia.