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What to do in the classroom when Nato comes to Wales

When Nato gathers in Wales for one of its periodic summits this September, you may well be confronted with students asking, “What is Nato?”

The UK government’s Department for Education has this week published resources designed to equip teachers with a suitably pithy response, but they also take students into far more complex territory.

There will be much fanfare as around 60 heads of state, 70 defence and foreign ministers and 4,000 delegates head to the Celtic Manor Resort in Newport – best known until now for hosting golf’s Ryder Cup in 2010 – for the summit on 4 and 5 September. The new resources show students why this matters, and what the summit might achieve.

The resources – pitched at Key Stage 2, Key Stage 3 and Key Stage 4 in England and Wales (ages 7-16) – cover the history of Nato since its formation in 1949, presenting it as one of the institutions set up to maintain peace following the two world wars, and explore what it seeks to achieve in modern times. They acknowledge that Nato is a source of some controversy and encourage students to think critically about the organisation's record. Three case studies, meanwhile, focus on Libya, Afghanistan and Kosovo in order to demonstrate how Nato strives to make the world safer.

Students are asked to discuss how different countries work together to make the world a better place, or to create a leaflet welcoming delegates to the UK. The resources venture into more philosophical territory, too, asking students to reflect on what they need in order to feel safe personally, before teasing this out into global issues of peace and security.

Older students are asked to consider when it may be right to use military force, and whether there are more effective ways to intervene in piracy, terrorism or humanitarian disasters. They discuss, too, how best to judge the success or failure of such interventions.

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