Situation Simulation

In this simulation students play out the role of the security council meeting in the Situation Room of the White House to advise the president. It is based on a fictionalized version of real events (ISIS in Syria) and could be used as an introduction to discussing the conflict.

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Situation: A terrorist group known as the Bahi is gaining power in the Middle East. They are not only a growing threat to the United States but their violence has led to a humanitarian crisis in their country.

Role: Members of the President's Cabinet

Task: Analyze the threat posted by the Bahi and submit a policy recommendation to the president.

Concepts: Executive Branch, Cabinet, dealing with a crisis


National Security Briefing Presentation File (Optional)

Student Briefing Worksheet and Background Sheet

Intro Video

Set Up:

  • Print one copy of the Security Briefing worksheet for each student.

  • Print 4 copies of each Security Briefing Background info sheet.

  • Arrange the classroom with 3 desks/seats in the front. Place labels on those desks: President, Vice President, VP Chief of Staff.

  • Arrange the rest of the desks into groups of 3-4. You should have 9 groups.

  • Optional: Clear your walls of any decor except maps to give it more of a feel of the Situation Room. Place a sign on the door that says "Restricted Area." Give students a password to enter class that day.


  • Select one student as President. That student chooses a Vice President. The VP chooses his/her Chief of Staff. Have those students sit in the desks at the front of the room.

  • Provide each group a copy of their respective briefing sheet found here:

  • Provide each student with a copy of the worksheet in the packet above.

  • Have each group complete Step One (The President can work with the Vice President’s group for this step.) Groups read over the briefing sheet and write the 3 most distressing facts about Bahi.

  • Have each group select a spokesperson.

  • Optional: Have each spokesperson report on their group’s answers.

  • Each group completes Step Two by reviewing the indicators of mass murder to determine if Bahi is truly a threat.

  • Next, the Chief of staff (you) and President and Chief of Staff lead a brief class discussion about which factor above is most significant or disturbing, and whether that threat is low, medium, or high.

  • Groups complete Step 3 by reading the rest of their sheet and answering the questions on the slide.

  • Each spokesperson reads aloud the bottom section of their briefing sheet to provide the president with their advice. The president can, and should, ask questions to the Secretaries about their proposal. The Chief of Staff (you) should also ask questions.

  • After the discussion of options, students answer questions 9 and 10 to indicate their preferred solution to the crisis.

  • Announce you are now going to tally the votes. Ask students to raise their hand for each option. Without telling them, only count the votes of the president. Make a scene and really overact here. I like to strain my neck looking around the room for votes and then announce "zero" with disgust. Students get confused pretty quickly and some will speak up as if I missed their vote.

  • After recording the president's two votes explain that in the executive branch there is no majority rule. The president makes all decisions.

  • Debrief by discussing or answering the questions on the last slide.


Reveal to students that this simulation is based on real events, namely ISIS in Syria and Iraq. Discuss the humanitarian crisis caused as a result. Have students research actions taken by Presidents Obama, Trump and Biden in Syria in the last 10 years and compare them to the options the students thought would be best to take in the simulation. Discuss whether their opinions on the best option changed as they learned more about the crisis and the very real suffering of the people affected by it.

Roughton Review

5/5 - This lesson went incredibly well. I was surprised at the deep questions asked by the "presidents" throughout the day. My students this year have not been very talkative but this activity really drove them to want to discuss the issues. It was also surprisingly easy to manage. Simulations sometimes require a ton out of the teacher to run successfully - this didn't. I highly recommend trying it!