Lesson Two: Highlights from Lester B. Pearson’s Life and Career

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 

Game Play

Students will play a game using the card decks they created in the previous lesson.

Divide students into groups, with one card deck per group. If the class created five (5) decks, there should be five (5) groups. The decks should have a set of event cards created by students and the additional disagree card.

Students will play on the following playing board, which the teacher can create on chart paper in advance (one playing board per group) or have the students create at the beginning of this lesson. If opting for the latter, the teacher can project or display this playing board in front of the class.

Lester B. Pearson—Canada’s original influencer?

Before getting started, the teacher should explain the following instructions, which should also stay displayed throughout the period (or which can be printed and handout out to groups):

  1. Students face each other with the playing board in the middle of them.

  2. One student will shuffle the cards and hand out an equal number (or as close to equal) to each player. The player with the disagree card should keep it a secret until their final turn.

  3. In turn, each player puts one of their cards where they think it should go on the playing board and briefly explain why. In placing their card and in explaining their choice, they must decide whether it relates to a national or international issue/has national or international impact, and whether it was “positive” or “negative.” ** For instance, the card with “Introduces Canada’s new flag” might be placed by the player on the National / Positive quadrant, explaining that the new flag united and represented all Canadians with a maple leaf instead of the colonial red ensign. 

  4. Depending on the social dynamic of the group, the class could agree either that other players have the chance to ask follow-up questions and engage in brief dialogue, or that no conversation is had after each card is played.

  5. On their final turn, the player with the disagree card selects one card placement made by a teammate that they disagree with. They pick up that card and move it to the location they think suits it better. For example, they might decide to move the “Introduces Canada’s new flag” to the National / Negative quadrant, explaining that the flag did not represent citizens of Québec and further alienated Indigenous Peoples Canada who were not included in the design discussion. If the student holding the disagree card does not actually disagree with any of their teammates’ card placements, they should still pick a card to move and follow through with this step.

  6. Other players then vote on who had the stronger argument about Pearson’s role in that event. It might seem like an easy win for the person holding the disagree card, but they need to think carefully about which of the events/placement they can most successfully argue against.  If they make a poor argument, whichever of the other players they chose to challenge could become the winner of this part of the game!

**When going over the instructions, the class should discuss what can be meant by “positive” and “negative” — the decision, its impacts, its legacies, etc.**

Ahead of playing, the class can also decide to modify these rules or add rules based on what makes sense for the group.

Post-Game Reflection

The class can come back together to discuss the game. How did it go? Did your teammates make any/many placements that you disagreed with? How did you decide where to place your card—what influenced your decision?

The students could also close out the experience by writing an individual reflection in a notebook, via exit ticket, or in response to a Google Form. For example, they could respond to the question:

What is one highlight from Lester B. Pearson’s life and/or career that you would consider a defining moment due to its national and/or international impact? In what ways was this impact positive and/or negative?

Or, the teacher could develop a different question or set of questions for students to close this activity with independent reflection.

Optional Extension

Students could read this interview with several Canadian politicians assessing Pearson’s influence. They could follow up by writing an essay on how their own assessment of Pearson aligns or does not align with one of the politicians in the interview. 

Alternatively, students could also write an essay comparing his international success vs national success in championing human rights. What was Pearson’s approach abroad vs at home?