Lesson Plan: The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)

The End of World War II and the Beginnings of the Cold War in Europe

This 1958 U.S. Army “Big Picture” film documents the events in Europe after the end of World War II that led to the Cold War and the formation of NATO.


The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is a military alliance between 29 different countries in Europe and North America. Initially created in 1949 to prevent the expansion of Soviet influence in Europe, NATO formed a rivalry with the countries of the Warsaw Pact during the Cold War. After the fall of the Soviet Union, NATO adapted it efforts to address new threats. This lesson traces the history of NATO starting with its formation and ending with President Trump's efforts to increase Europe's financial contributions to the alliance.


  • WARM-UP:

    Have the students answer the following questions as the class begins.

    • Explain what an alliance is.
    • What is the purpose of alliances?

    Have the students use the vocabulary handout and define or summarize each of the terms listed. Review the vocabulary terms with the class before viewing the video clips associated with this lesson.


    Pass out the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Handout. Either individually or as a class, have the students view each of the clips while answering the questions. Discuss the answers with the class after they are done.

    Video Clip: The End of World War II and the Beginnings of the Cold War in Europe (5:00)

    Video Clip: The Formation of NATO (2:23)

    Video Clip: An Introduction to NATO (1:26)

    Video Clip: NATO and the End of the Cold War (4:04)

    Video Clip: NATO in Bosnia (1:34)

    Video Clip: NATO and September 11

    Video Clip: NATO and Ukraine (4:18)

    Video Clip: NATO Treaty Article 5 (1:49)

    Video Clip: The Importance of NATO (2:18)

    Video Clip: President Trump and NATO (3:10)


    Have student apply what they just learned about NATO to complete the following activity.

    Pose the question: "Is NATO still necessary?"

    Students will brainstorm pros and cons of NATO individually. After working individually, students will share their ideas with a partner. Once they have shared their ideas, they will take a side and write a position paper individually using the list of pros and cons that they created. They must provide supporting arguments and examples in their response.


    As a class, discuss the arguments that students used in their responses.


    Timeline- Using the previous C-SPAN clips and other resources, create a timeline of important events in the history of NATO.

    Alternate Writing Prompts-

    • Explain how the role and duties of NATO have changed since the end of the Cold War. Predict what you think NATO will look like in the future.
    • Has NATO been successful in preventing war and promoting peace? Explain your answer.

    NATO Flag- Create a new flag for NATO that represents its principles, roles and history. Be prepared to explain why you chose your design.

Additional Resources


  • Airstrikes
  • Alliance
  • Cold War
  • Communism
  • Containment
  • Deterrence
  • Iron Curtain
  • Multilateral
  • Nato
  • Neutrality
  • Soviet Union
  • Warsaw Pact
  • World War Ii


Foreign PolicyU.S. HistoryWorld History


High SchoolUniversity