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National Museum of Nuclear Science & History

Living History: Life on the Hill

Grade Level:


Students role play life at Los Alamos. Submitted by Brenda McNamara.



Students will need access to biographies, non-fiction and internet. Suggested readings include:



Explore what daily life would have been like for inhabitants in Los Alamos in 1942

  • Investigate the necessity of secrecy involved in creating the atomic bomb
  • Background Information

Because of the sensitive nature of the Manhattan Project, ultimate secrecy and multi-levels of security were needed to prevent espionage and to provide the proper working environment for the scientists. In a short period of time, the U.S. Government created a hidden community where some of the country’s greatest minds were gathered and given the task of creating a weapon that would alter the course of world history. In this activity, students will learn about the daily life of inhabitants of Los Alamos in 1942 and share their understanding of the Manhattan Project with classmates through a living history presentation.



Students will be assigned a character to research and portray. Suggestions include J. Robert Oppenheimer, General Leslie R. Groves, Dorothy McKibbin, Edith Warner, A. J. Connell, Enrico Fermi, Edward Teller, Klaus Fuchs, David Greenglass, and Priscilla Greene. Additionally, students will research period clothing and assemble an outfit to be worn the day of presentation. Teacher must provide classroom time for research and direction for students. Students will be required to keep a journal of their findings which should be checked periodically for progress by the teacher.

To create the atmosphere for the time period, the teacher will inform students’ classmates of what they are about to witness. Once the classroom has been brought to the proper time period, students will introduce themselves (in character) and explain their role in the Manhattan Project. Questions will be taken from the audience about life in Los Alamos and security provisions in place.