Curricula and Lesson Plans

To gain access to Lesson Plans, Crafts and Culture Units, or Library Guides, you must fill out the form that appears once you click on the title of the desired unit.
Once you complete the form, you will be directed to the materials via a link on the form thank you-screen, and REEEC will send you any additional materials at no charge.


Rivers of Siberia and the Russian Far East
Subject: Social Studies/Geography
Themes: Rivers, Transportation, Economic and Political Development, Russia
Time: 4 (50-minute) class periods
Target Audience: Advanced High School Students and Community College
Developed by: Devon Lechtenberg, PhD in Department of Geography and Geographic Information Science, UIUC

The major rivers of Siberia and the Russian Far East are a defining feature of Russia’s geography. All four major river basins, including the Ob-Irtysh, Yenisei, Lena, and the Amur are home to important economic and population centers. The Ob-Irtysh River Basin in western Siberia contains some of Russia’s largest cities after Moscow and St. Petersburg. The economic activity found in some of the cities within the Ob-Irtysh Basin forms an indispensable part of Russia’s overall economy. The Yenisei River Basin is home to cities such as Krasnoyarsk and Norilsk, which are important mining centers.  The Lena River Basin, remote and sparsely populated, contains less industry but is home to many natural wonders such as the Lena Columns and the northern hemisphere’s lowest temperatures. The Amur River Basin forms much of the border between Russia and China, and thus plays a prominent geopolitical role in Sino-Russian relations. As Russia expanded eastwards, it built settlements along these great rivers, which served both as a source of water and major transportation linkages. They continue these functions today, although rail, road, and air transportation have replaced rivers as the main form of transportation for people. Nevertheless, river transportation remains vital to economic activity throughout much of Siberia and the Russian Far East. Additionally, the Northern Sea Route plays an important role not only in the Russian economy, but is beginning to be of international significance as well.

With this in mind, a series of curriculum guides have been developed to bring awareness of the importance of transportation for socio-economic and political development in Siberia and the Russian Far East. At present, there are four curriculum guides offered as part of this series. More will be added in addition to supplementary materials such as translations of relevant Russian news articles. The four curricula which are now available include: 1) a curriculum guide on river transportation in the Ob-Irtysh basin, 2) a curriculum guide on the Amur basin, 3) a curriculum guide on important rivers and cities of the Yenisei and Lena basins, and finally 4) a curriculum guide to the international politics of the Northern Sea Passage across the Russian Arctic. The goal of this series is not only to introduce students to the basic geography of these regions, but also to the role of transportation in shaping this geography, and to raise awareness of their importance to Russia and the rest of the world.

Everyday Life Under Late Socialism
Subject: Social Studies/Modern History
Themes: Late Socialism, Daily Life, Shortage, Economy, Eastern Europe
Time: 3 (50-minute) class periods
Target Audience: High School Students and Community College
Developed by: Zsuzsánna Magdó, PhD in Department of History, UIUC

In Spring 2013, the Institute of National Remembrance in Warsaw kindly donated three copies of its recently created Kolejka/Queue, an educational board game that tells the story of everyday life in Poland at the tail-end of the communist era. Kolejka simulates the challenges families faced in terms of obtaining consumer products and services in a socialist economy of shortage. It provides players insight into the workings of planning, the informal economy, the system of blat (corruption) and party patronage, and the state socialist appropriation of private time.

To help students gain critical understanding of daily life under socialism, REEEC has recently developed a set of curriculum guides for high school and community college instruction around this game. The individual and group activities ask students to observe the temporal, social, and emotional aspects that defined socialist consumption, and invite them to identify the formal characteristics of daily life. Students will also contemplate on how people’s subjective experience varied based on their membership in a particular social category and the kinds of goods/services they sought to obtain. Lastly, in the framework of a class role-play, they will consider socialist democracy at work and compile a prioritized list of reforms to meet the demands of their “wider socialist society”.

The module fulfills Illinois State Goals 16.A.5a-b and National Social Studies Standards in World History for the 20th Century Since 1945. The lesson plans are accompanied by a bibliography of recent scholarly literature on everyday life and a list of additional instructional resources (relevant works of fiction, printed primary sources, documentaries, motion pictures, digital photo archives, websites, blogs and other lesson plans).

Educational Opportunities for Physically Handicapped Students in Eastern Europe
Subject: Social Studies/Sociology, International and Global Studies, Comparative Politics, Media Studies
Themes: Disability, Human Rights, Law, Education
Time: 3 (50-minute) class periods
Target Audience: High School Students and Community College
Developed by: Nellie Manis, MA in Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies

This curriculum was prepared for community college instructors teaching social sciences.  The lesson plan can be adapted for grades 7-12 and it can be tailored to give an international perspective to courses in sociology, education, disability rights, international studies, legal studies, social work, human rights, comparative politics, economics, global studies, media studies and/or engineering courses. The curriculum is designed to last for 3 sessions and can be broken up into multiple lessons at the instructor’s discretion.

Breaking Stalin’s Nose
Subject: Social Studies/Modern History
Themes: Stalin, Youth, Soviet Union, Political Culture, Everyday Life
Time: 1 (50-minute) class period
Target Audience: Middle School Students
Developed by: Andrew Dolinar, BA in Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies

Breaking Stalin’s Nose by Eugene Yelchin centers around Sasha Zaichik, a ten-year-old boy living in Moscow with his father during Stalin’s Great Terror. Sasha idolizes Stalin and is excited about his upcoming initiation into the Young Pioneers of the Communist Party. But the night before the initiation, his father, a high ranking member of the secret police, is himself arrested. The narrative follows Sasha on this day, the day he has waited for his whole life, as his world is turned upside down, and he begins to question everything he has been taught.

To provide insight into propaganda, political culture, citizenship and everyday life in the Soviet Union, the Russian, East European, and Eurasian Center has developed a module for middle schools around it. Building on the interactive website that accompanies the novel, the lesson plan also invites students to consider issues around political participation and indoctrination more broadly. This module fulfills Common Core Standards ELA-LITERACY.RL. 6.1.- 6.2., ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.3 to 6-8.4, Illinois State Goals 14.c.3, 18.B.3a, and 18.B.3b.

Russian Revolution
Subject: Social Studies
Themes: Russian Revolution, history, politics, journalism
Target Audience: High School/College
Developed by: Madeline Artibee, MA in REEEC

This module was created to recognize the impact of the 1917 Russian Revolution 100 years later. It has multiple components: biography, analysis of constitutions, a day in the life of a reporter during the Russian Revolution, and American minority communities during the Russian Revolution. It fulfills SS.IS.4.9-12, SS.CV.3.9-12, SS.CV.4.9-12, SS.H.1.9-12, SS.H.5.9-12, SS.H.7.9-12, and SS.H.8.9-12.

Soviet Daughter: A Graphic Revolution
Subject: Social Studies/Modern History, Literature
Themes: Soviet Union, Memory, Identity
Target Audience: High School Students
Developed by: Stephanie Porter, Outreach and Programming Coordinator of REEEC

Soviet Daughter: A Graphic Revolution gives students an understanding of life in prerevolutionary Russia and the Soviet Union through the eyes of a young Jewish woman and how her story and memories shapes the life of her great-granddaughter, who lives in the United States. By reading and analyzing a graphic novel, students can examine how information is conveyed via the text and images and how a character or viewpoint is portrayed.

This module fulfills Common Core Standards ELA-LITERACY.RL.9-10.1-6 and ELA-LITERACY.RL.11-12.1-3.

Violence Overload? Promoting Sensitivity to Human Suffering: The Case of Bosnia
Subject: Social Studies/History, Political Science, Media
Themes: Genocide, Human Rights, Memory, Balkans
Time: 11 (50-minute) class periods
Target Audience: High School Students, Community College, or Supplementary to Collegiate Survey Courses
Workshop Developed by: Judith Pintar, Visiting Associate Professor of Sociology, UIUC
Rob Whiting, Course Mentor, General Education: Geography, Western Governor’s State University
Elana Jakel, PhD in the Department of History, UIUC
Lesson Plans Developed by: Adam Schmitt, Social Studies Teacher at Lincoln Junior High School, Naperville, IL

This module has been designed to help secondary school teachers and community college faculty develop curriculum material that addresses crimes of genocide. Reflecting on the case of the Bosnian War of the 1990s, the module will explore the challenge of teaching students to think about the complex social and psychological dynamics of national, ethnic, and religious violence in a way that avoids reinforcing stereotypes about the social groups involved, and that promotes sensitivity to human suffering.

Documentary Film Curriculum: Putin’s Kiss
Subject: Social Studies/Modern History, Contemporary World Politics
Themes: Contemporary Russia, Democracy, Authoritarianism, Civil Society, Press Freedom, Youth Movements
Time: 2-3 (55-minute) class periods or option of 1-2 class period(s)
Target Audience: High School Students
Developed by: Alisha Kirchoff, Associate Director of the Russian, East European, and Eurasian Center (2010-2015), UIUC

These curricula were designed to be used with materials found in the REEEC multimedia collection, and to be used within 9-12 and Community College courses. Additionally, the curricula can serve as supplemental material for collegiate survey courses.


Slavic Story Time
Themes: Slavic Stories, songs, and crafts
Time: 60-minute class periods
Target Audience: Children in Kindergarten or Primary School
Developed by: Jennifer Bylsma, Assistant Outreach Coordinator of REEEC (2010-2013), UIUC

This is a collection of hour-long sessions that involve reading aloud a story, creating a craft and performing an activity, usually singing a song related to the story.

Head Start Curriculum 
Themes: Russian, East European, and Eurasian Culture and Crafts
Time: 30-minute class periods
Target Audience: Children, ages 3-7
Developed by: Samantha Celmer, Outreach Coordinator of REEEC (2015-2016), UIUC
Benjamin Krupp, PhD Student in the Department of Anthropology, UIUC
Madeline Artibee, MA in REEEC, UIUC
Danielle Sekel, MA Student in Musicology, UIUC

The Head Start curriculum was developed for our local Head Start schools and is presented by the Outreach Assistant at the Russian, East European, and Eurasian Center. This curriculum is designed to be extremely interactive, given the young age of the target audience. Each session offers a 10-minute cultural presentation focused on a single country involving images, videos, and/or artifacts, and a craft activity related to the presentation.

Basic Russian Lessons for Elementary School Students
Themes: Russian language and culture
Time: 45-60 minute class periods
Target Audience: Elementary school students, especially 4th and 5th graders
Developed by: Serenity Stanton Orengo, PhD Candidate in Slavic Languages and Literatures, UIUC

This curriculum was developed to teach lessons on Russian language and culture for an after school program at one of our local elementary schools. It is divided into language and culture components.


Women and the Russian Revolution
Developed by: Bethany Wages, MA in REEEC, UIUC

Additional Resources for Bomb by Steve Sheinkin
Developed by: Bethany Wages, MA in REEEC, UIUC


In addition to developing our own resources for teachers, REEEC has also collected a library of resources. To see some of our resources, listed by subject, please click here. For more information on how to borrow from our library or for lists of additional audio, video, and text resources, please see the Multimedia Library page.