Cuban Missile Crisis Group Exercise

in , , on January 6, 2022

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The purpose of this exercise is for the students to understand the critical days of the Cuban Missile Crisis and the role of leaders in crisis. Through the crucial documents at the time, students will be able to articulate the challenges of decision-making in a nuclear crisis. A group discussion will expose students to how different individuals can interpret intentions. Students are divided into 5 groups, each group receiving a different document for discussion within their group. Groups share their answers to specific questions with the rest of the class. 


  1. Detailed Description and Group Exercise Information
  2. Group Questions (Handout)
  3. Group 1 Handout: Proclamation 3504 & Accompanied Kennedy Letter
  4. Group 2 Handout: Khrushchev’s letter to Kennedy, October 24
  5. Group 3 Handout: Castro Letter to Khrushchev
  6. Group 4 Handout: Khrushchev to Kennedy October 26
  7. Group 5 Handout: Khrushchev – Kennedy Exchange October 27/28
  8. PowerPoint
  9. Example of Student Summary on Chalkboard
  10. Title Picture

Content Attributes

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Topic / Subject Matter , ,
Skillset ,
Lens / Approach / Method ,
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Activity Type
Audiences ,
Minimum Number of Participants 10
Maximum Number of Participants 35
Group or Individual Groups
Number of Leaders 5
Total Prep Time 5-10
Total activity time 1 hour
Divisible No
Divisible Explanation
Learning Objectives
  • Understand the critical days of the Cuban Missile Crisis
  • Articulate the challenges of decision-making in nuclear crisis and foreign policy
  • Understand the role of leaders' personalities in international crises
  • Identify potential for misinterpretation and miscommunication in foreign policy communication
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