Lesson One: Introduction to Lester B. Pearson

By: Leah Judd

Leah Judd

Education Collaborator

Leah Judd has a passion for teaching Social Studies.  Working in Sechelt, BC, Leah has been lucky to work with students who embrace inquiry learning and created locker museum displays during the pandemic to share their curated stories with the school community.  Leah shares her enthusiasm for Social Studies as editor of Salon, an online quarterly publication from the Social Studies Educators Network of Canada @ssencressc

Suggested Subject Areas

Social Studies

Grade Level



60-75 minutes

Lesson Outline 


Display the photograph below (or another image of Lester B. Pearson).

Pierre Elliott Trudeau, John Turner, Jean Chrétien and Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson following Cabinet changes, 4 April 1967, Ottawa. Library and Archives Canada.

Invite students to spend some time (about a minute or so) looking at it.

Then, consider and discuss the questions associated with visual thinking strategies, such as:

Briefly state the context of the photograph (as per the caption—Pierre Elliott Trudeau, John Turner, Jean Chrétien and Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson following Cabinet changes, 4 April 1967, Ottawa). Let students know that they will be learning more about the long political career of Lester B. Pearson, who appears on the right in the photo.

Who was Lester B. Pearson?

Watch the following video about the divisive issue of Canada’s new flag in 1965. It provides context into an influential decision Pearson played a significant role in making.

Facilitate a brief conversation with students about their key takeaways from the video.

Invite students to spend a bit of time researching online to find three (3) events of significance in Pearson’s career. This can be done independently or with a partner. Students should take note of the event and the date (in a Google Doc, on a post-it, in a notebook). If students do not have consistent access to computers and/or the internet, skip ahead to the next step (featuring a timeline of events).

Ask students to share out examples of the events they found, and write them on the board.

Next, share the timeline of events with students—this could be projected, printed as handouts, etc. Students could take a few moments to read it independently, or it could be read communally as a class.

Discuss with students whether there is any overlap between the events they found and the ones listed on the timeline. If they found events that are not listed on the timeline, the teacher can add them in. The class can also discuss any events here that stand out to them, surprise them, or that they have questions about. The teacher can let students know that they will be engaging much more deeply in the details of these events in the next activity.

Playing Cards

The students will spend the rest of the period creating playing cards based on these significant events in Pearson’s career.

When empty/blank, the card might look like this (teachers can feel free to format their own as well):

Front of playing cardBack of playing card



So what? Details and impact:

When filled out, the card might look like this:

Front of playing cardBack of playing card
Event: Pearson enlists in WWI

Date: 15 April 1915


So what? Details and impact:

Just four days after turning 18, the legal age to volunteer for WWI, Lester B Pearson enlisted for the army, agreeing to serve in the Canadian Over-Seas Expeditionary Force.

A student at the time at the University of Toronto, Pearson may have influenced other students to join him in the adventure of the Great War.  Likely he was influenced by the Canadian government propaganda and recruitment campaign, following the Canadian military ‘success’ at Ypres following the first use of gas attacks against the French and British soldiers.  

Pearson saw action in Greece and the Western Front.  He would have become familiar with the ordeal of fighting on the ground and in the air in WWI as he also trained as a pilot.

To create the cards, teachers can print the empty template above (or a modified version), and fold the cards on the vertical line to create two-sided cards. Alternatively, students can use index cards, recipe cards, card stock, or other thick paper to create their own playing cards by hand with the same information.

Next, students can select or be assigned 2-3 major events in Pearson’s life from the list above. Depending on how the students work best, they could do this task independently or in groups of two—with groups of two potentially taking on additional topics. Students do not need to select the same events as those they researched/discovered earlier in the lesson.

Students are responsible for creating a playing card for each of their selected/assigned major events in Pearson’s life. In order for there to be enough card decks for the class to use in the next lesson, students must make five (5) copies of the exact same card for each event. So, for example, if students select the event listed in the sample card above—Pearson enlists in WWI—they would create five identical cards.

By the end of this activity, there will be five (5) identical playing decks of cards about events in Pearson’s life and career. Students will use these decks to play a game during the next lesson.

While the students work, the teacher should create—or ask a student who has finished early to create—an identical “Disagree” card for every deck. This card is necessary for game play in the next lesson. The card should be printed or made of the same material as is used for the rest of the deck. For added surprise and fun, the teacher can also make the card look like all the others by designing the front to match the format of the others.

For example (the teacher can print this and use this exact card, or create one of their own):

Front of playing cardBack of playing card
Event: Pearson is called “the most dangerous man in the world”

Date: 1953



At the end of class, the teacher should collect the playing cards into five (5) decks—each deck should have one card that represents each of the events the students were assigned, and one “Disagree” card.

Teachers can feel free to adjust the number of events assigned to students, the size of groups working on each event, or the number of decks needed to play the game.