Monday, November 7, 2011

Spy Kids

Most students, at one time or another, become enamored with spies and espionage. Spies live in the shadows, gather intelligence and use all sorts of evasive actions to avoid detection. They inhabit a world fraught with danger and mystery, and their exploits are often riveting. What’s not to like?

The use of espionage to gather intelligence has a lengthy record in history. Sun Tzu stressed the importance of using political and military techniques of “deception and subversion” in his seminal work The Art of War, written around 600 BC.  Surveillance operations have also been documented as far back as ancient Egypt, where early pharaohs used trusted agents to spy on their subjects as well as political “frenemies” in Rome and Greece. The ancient Romans honed espionage to a fine art, using it as an effective method in helping to govern their immense empire that spanned three continents. Indeed, Roman documents contemporary to the period indicate that the Roman intelligence community knew in advance of the plan to assassinate Julius Caesar in 44 BC. European governments in medieval times relied on spies particularly in times of war, while Queen Elizabeth I and her cabinet infamously employed a vast network of spies, some of whom were double or even triple agents.

The first documented case of spying in the U.S. occurred in 1776, when Nathan Hale was executed by the British for spying on them during the American Revolution. George Washington realized early on that espionage would be vital to winning independence from the British, and relied on his personal band of spies known as the Culper Ring to feed him information. More recent spies such as Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, Anna Chapman, and scores of others continue to make headlines from time to time, but most spies remain in the shadows for life. Today, nearly all countries use espionage to gather intelligence on friends and foes alike, employing both traditional spies as well as digital methods. According to recent news reports, the U.S. is the target of “hundreds of thousands” or cyber-attacks daily, many of which originate in Beijing. Security experts believe the attacks are meant to infiltrate government, manufacturing, and military systems, and concede that a fair percentage of the attacks have been successful. This type of espionage could be a great topic of discussion in social studies classes, as well as in lessons devoted to economics, health and safety, technology, current events, and others.

My picks this week focus on spy-themed lessons that work across the curriculum for a variety of ages. As always, we’ll also be featuring several new lessons and resources on this topic each day throughout the week on our Facebook and Twitter pages, so be sure to check those pages regularly.

Boston Spies’ Report on the Redcoats
Subjects: US history, Writing
Grade: 3-5
In this lesson, students collect information about British actions in Boston, and send it by secret coded message to leaders in Philadelphia. This is a fun lesson that incorporates research with primary source documents, hands-on activities, and critical thinking skills. This lesson offered by Beacon Learning Center, which offers standards-based resources and professional development activities.

An American Spy with Money to Spend
Subjects: Geography, Math (measurement)
Grade: 6-8
In this lesson, students pretend to be international spies on a mission. The lesson teaches across the curriculum, with the spies "visiting" different countries, and exchanging currency. This lesson is a product of Beacon Learning Center, an online educational resource and professional development center that offers a variety of in many subject areas, and are aligned to Florida's Sunshine State Standards.

The Spy’s Dilemma: A Problem in Intelligent Choice, and a Matter of Life and Death
Subjects: US history, World history
Grade: 8-12
In this interactive online game, you are a Soviet agent in late December 1945. Relations between your country and America have been rapidly deteriorating. Your government is worried that the United States will turn its power against Soviet interests in the world.  Your government has asked you to find out what you can about American foreign and defense policies and about American intelligence capabilities. You have 45 minutes to examine sensitive files from President Truman's safe and select five you think will be most useful to your country's leader, Premier Josef Stalin. Write down your reasons for selecting the documents you choose. If you do well, you may be allowed to live. This online game is a product of the Harry S. Truman Library & Museum, a nonprofit organization that houses thousands of documents by President Truman and his administration, and offers many educational resources for teachers and researchers.

~Joann's Picks - September 22, 2011~

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