Social Education 74(3), pp 152–154 ©2010 National Council for the Social Studies The Wall: A Simulation for the Social Studies Classroom

William B. Russell III

ovember 9, 2009, marked the twentieth anniversary of the opening of the period for introduction/painting and one Berlin Wall. The Wall, a symbol of the Cold War, separated the German period for discussion/analysis). It should Npeople for 28 years (1961–1989), keeping those on the East side isolated. be tailored to fit the needs of individual Although the construction and dismantling of the Berlin Wall is a significant part classrooms. Teachers should also refer to of history, the topic is little covered in the classroom. Textbooks generally include their respective state standards, to dis- one sentence on the topic. And yet teaching about the Berlin Wall fits well with the cern how the content covered fits within pedagogical expectations outlined in the national standards created by the National those standards. Council for the Social Studies (NCSS). Procedures Of the 10 thematic strands outlined in 1961 to protect its people from capi- 1. Introduction—As students enter the in these standards, both Culture and talism. The wall split Berlin into East classroom, direct each student to a Time, Continuity, and Change illustrate and West Berlin. East Berlin was part of specific desk (separate friends and the relevancy of the Berlin Wall to the the socialist state of East (the groups from one another). Once social studies. Culture outlines the German Democratic Republic), which students are seated, divide the class importance of examining cultural pat- was created by the Soviet Union. West into two sections (East and West). terns and systems in comparison with Berlin was part of West Germany (the To divide the class into two sections, students’ own. Time, Continuity, and Federal Republic of Germany), which teachers can stack cardboard boxes. Change includes suggestions in which stu- was a liberal parliamentary republic Teachers can also hang sheets from dents examine social issues based upon allied with the , the United the ceiling or use vertical filing historical knowledge.1 Many of the other Kingdom, and France. cabinets wrapped in art paper. standards also provide a rationale for Many students find it hard to relate (Paint the cardboard boxes grey, teaching about the Berlin Wall. Teachers to historical events that seem irrelevant if you can, to look like the Berlin might also check the approved curricu- to their everyday lives. Simulations can Wall.) Cardboard boxes can be lum frameworks of their individual states. actively engage students and help make obtained from most local appliance Often state standards for social studies the content more meaningful.2 This simu- stores for free. It is important not are patterned after the national standards, lation of life in Berlin during the Berlin to build the wall completely across but familiarity with those standards is Wall era was tested in a high school class- the classroom. Leave space so you beneficial. room and is appropriate for middle and can stand in front of the class and secondary students (but could easily be see both sections of the classroom. Purpose adapted for the elementary classroom). This will help prevent classroom The purpose of this article is to (1) Teachers should make sure the material management issues. provide educators with a classroom- and how it is covered is age appropri- tested simulation for teaching the Berlin ate. The simulation is not intended to 2. Explain to students that the classroom Wall and (2) provide educators with a be one lesson plan per se, but an activity rules have changed. The new rules list of relevant resources. that can be incorporated into a lesson allow the west section of the class- plan to help gain students’ attention and room more freedom (e.g., bathroom The Berlin Wall Simulation make the lesson more meaningful. The breaks, less or no homework, the right The Berlin Wall was a 27-mile wall activity should be carried out during at to eat in class, wear hats, etc…). The built by the East German government least two 45-minute class periods (one new rules for the east section are more

Social Education 152 Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate, December 1, 1989. The structure was already freely accessible from the East, but the crossing to the West would not officially open until December 22nd. (Department of Defense Photo, Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

rigid and limit the students’ freedom and new rule changes. This will add For example, during our activity, (e.g., no hall passes, no talking, more sincerity. a student on the east side of the homework, etc…). The rule changes classroom wall painted an image of that are enforced need to be relevant 3. Spend the class period discussing the what he thought it would be like on to your students’ everyday lives. For rules and student reactions. Students the west side of the classroom wall. example, wearing hats and other will complain about unfairness. The image included an idealistic headwear is a big deal for students, Continue to listen to reactions from picture of students having the so it was included as a freedom for both sides. freedom to wear and do as they the west section. This helps make please. Another student, on the the simulation more relevant and 4. Encourage students to voice their west side of the classroom, painted meaningful. (Of course, it would be frustration with the new wall and a picture depicting a broken heart, inappropriate to limit this in class- the new rules by painting the since her boyfriend was on the other rooms where students wear headwear wall. Provide students with paint, side of the classroom wall. Other for religious reasons.) Explain why markers, and other drawing utensils. students painted images or scribbled these rules are being implemented Including artwork and related poems or sayings pertaining to their and why this wall was built. Tell the activities into the curriculum can feelings about the classroom wall. students in the East, that the wall is provide visual stimulation, increase for the best and it will help prevent learning, and increase student 5. Once the wall is painted, hold a class them from being negatively influ- achievement.3 Students might want discussion about the wall artwork. enced by the students in the West. to draw pictures or write statements Encourage students to analyze the Let the students react appropriately. (quotes, sayings etc.) as a way of art. Have students examine each side Give them an opportunity to voice expressing their personal opinions. of the wall. Ask these questions to their opinions. If possible, have an This allows students to release their spur discussion, analysis, synthesis, administrator come in and speak to feelings and is very similar to what and evaluation: both sections, condoning the wall occurred on the actual Berlin Wall.

May / June 2010 153 • What do you see? in meaningful learning. Ill.: University of Press). • Who do you think created this piece? Websites: • The Fall of the Berlin Wall by • The Newseum: The Berlin Wall William Buckley – Describes not • Why do you think he or she ( — An only the fall of Berlin Wall, but also created this piece? interactive online museum that its construction, and its place in the • What feelings does this piece provides rich detail about the Cold War (Hoboken, N.J.: John evoke? Berlin Wall, from its conception to Wiley and Sons, Inc., 2004). • What can you conclude from the its fall. piece? • The Berlin Wall: A World • Berlin Wall Online (www.dailysoft. Divided, 1961-1989 by Fredrick com/berlinwall/) – This site includes Taylor – Provides an overview of As discussion of the artwork a detailed timeline, pictures, and the Wall and its history, supported progresses, tie the class’s situation to that the history of the Berlin Wall. It by research (, N.Y.: of Berlin during the era of the Berlin also includes links to other useful HarperCollins, 2007). Wall. Depending on the time allotted Berlin Wall websites. for this simulation, teachers can provide Note: Teachers should pre-view or more or less detail as needed. • Berlin Wall Art (www.berlinwallart. pre-read any of the resources before com/) – This site includes an implementing them into the curriculum, Resources amazing gallery of Wall artwork. and ascertain whether the relevant The following resources range from resource is suitable for the intended the primary level to the secondary Films: audience. Teachers should also check level. Due to the enormous amount of • Fall of the Berlin Wall (1990) with the principal and/or county/state resources available, each category has Director Peter Claus Schmidt – regulations before teaching content been limited to three resources. The Examines the Berlin Wall’s erection, or using resources that could put their resources can help educators develop history, and fall. Schmidt, P.C. positions at risk. effective lesson plans to engage students (Director) USA: Warner Home Video. Conclusion Social studies teachers are consistently • The Wall: Live in Berlin (1996) trying to engage students in the content. Director Roger Waters – An Students sometimes complain that con- account of the charity concert by tent is boring and not relevant to their Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters and everyday lives. Simulations stimulate various other musicians to celebrate interest, and as a result, students gain a the fall of the Berlin Wall. USA: deeper understanding and appreciation Polygram Video. for the content. The Berlin Wall simula- tion will actively engage students and • The Burning Wall: Dissent and promote interest. Opposition behind the Berlin Wall (2004) Directed by Hava Notes Kohav Beller – An award-winning 1. National Council for the Social Studies, Curriculum documentary that depicts resistance Standards for Social Studies (1994), 2. William B. Russell III and Jeff Byford, “The Evolution to the Berlin Wall from the of Man and His Tools: A Simulation from the beginning to the end. USA: Direct MACOS Project,” The Journal for the Liberal Arts and Sciences 10, no. 3 (2006): 17-21. Cinema Limited. 3. Russell, “Teaching the Holocaust with Online Art: A Case Study of High School Students,” The Journal Books: of Social Studies Research 31, no. 2 (2007): 35-42; Julie Romero, Integrating Visual Arts into Social • The Wall Jumper: A Berlin Story by Studies, ERIC Reproduction No/ED405268 Peter Schneider (1998) – A fictional (, 1996). tale about a man who lives in the William B. Russell III is an assistant profes- divided city of Berlin and the events sor of social science education at the University in his life as he crosses back-and- of Central in Orlando, Florida. He can be forth over the Berlin Wall (Chicago, reached at [email protected].

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