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International Relations: United States Cooperating in UN, NATO, NAFTA, and USMCA

90 min

Essential Question  

  • How do international organizations and agreements shape political and economic collaboration on a global scale? 


  • Students will analyze the goals and roles of the United Nations (UN), North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) within the context of international cooperation. 
  • Students will demonstrate their understanding of the origins and purposes of the UN, NATO, NAFTA, and USMCA by participating in collaborative research, brainstorming, and artistic expression to create a visual representation (mosaic).  
  • Students will compare how the United States and other member nations collaborate politically and economically within each framework. 
  • Students will reflect on their collaborative experience, discussing the challenges and successes encountered during the project and reflecting on the themes of cooperation depicted in the mosaics. 


Overviews of International Organizations 

  • United Nations (UN): The United Nations is an international organization founded in 1945 after World War II to promote peace, security, and cooperation among nations. It consists of 193 member states and operates through various bodies, including the General Assembly, Security Council, and specialized agencies. The UN addresses a wide range of global issues, including conflict resolution, humanitarian aid, human rights, and sustainable development. 
  • North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO): NATO is a military alliance established in 1949 to ensure the collective defense of its member states against potential threats, particularly from the Soviet Union during the Cold War. It consists of 32 member countries from North America and Europe who are committed to mutual defense and cooperation in the areas of security, defense, and crisis management. NATO promotes stability and security in the Euro-Atlantic region through deterrence and defense measures. 
  • North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA): NAFTA was a trade agreement signed in 1994 by the United States, Canada, and Mexico, aimed at eliminating tariffs and trade barriers among the three countries. It facilitated the flow of goods, services, and investments across borders, promoting economic growth and integration in North America. NAFTA was replaced by the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) in 2020, which modernized and updated certain provisions of the original agreement. 
  • United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA): USMCA is a trade agreement that replaced NAFTA in 2020. It governs trade relations among the United States, Mexico, and Canada and includes provisions related to intellectual property rights, digital trade, labor standards, environmental protections, and rules of origin for automobiles and agriculture products. USMCA aims to modernize and enhance North American trade while addressing concerns raised under NAFTA. 


  • In this lesson on international relations, students will explore how organizations and agreements such as the United Nations (UN), North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) shape political and economic collaboration globally. They will conduct collaborative research and create mosaics to visually represent the goals, roles, and cooperation within these frameworks. The lesson involves a gallery walk to compare and contrast the different organizations, followed by a reflection session to discuss the themes of cooperation, diversity, and unity. Through this process, students will gain a deeper understanding of international cooperation and the role of the United States and other member nations in these organizations. 


  • Provide an overview of the UN, NATO, NAFTA, and USMCA, emphasizing their goals and the role of the United States within each using the Student Handout.
  • Introduce the project and its objective of representing international cooperation through a collaborative mosaic. 
  • Divide the class into small groups, ensuring a mix of skills and interests in each group. Due to USMCA’s connection with NAFTA, students assigned to USMCA may need to be foundationally familiar with NAFTA. 

Facilitation Note: If class size allows, assign two groups to complete each organization. For example, two different groups assigned to create a mosaic for the UN. Therefore, when each group creates their mosaic, students can compare how each group visually represented the same organization.  


  • Instruct each group to conduct research on their assigned international organization/agreement and brainstorm ideas for their mosaic. 
  • Encourage groups to think creatively about how to visually represent cooperation in their chosen topic. Provide art supplies and digital devices for groups to begin creating their mosaics. 
  • Groups can use a combination of collage, drawings, digital graphics, and multimedia elements to bring their ideas to life. 
  • In addition to creating their mosaic, each group must write a label that includes a title, medium, name of artists (group members), and a description of their piece. In the description, students must identify the origins and purpose of the international organization/agreement, and how the United States and member nations work to cooperate politically and economically.  
  • Circulate among groups to offer guidance and support as needed. 


  • Set up a gallery space where groups can display their mosaics and labels. 
  • Then allow each group to participate in a gallery walk. 
  • During the gallery walk, students should note how the mosaic they are viewing is similar and different from their mosaic. Here are some sample questions to prompt the students:  
    • How are the origins and purpose of the international organization/agreement different or similar to the organization/agreement your group researched?  
    • How does the political and economic work of the United States and member nations of this organization/agreement compare to the group you researched? 
    • How does this mosaic look different to your mosaic?  


  • After the gallery walk, reconvene as a class for a reflection and discussion session. 
  • Ask students to share their thoughts on the experience of creating and showcasing their mosaics. 
  • Facilitate a discussion on the themes of cooperation, diversity, and unity represented in the mosaics. Here are some sample questions you can use to lead your class discussion:  
    • Consider the theme of cooperation depicted in your mosaic. How do these themes relate to the goals and missions of the international organizations/agreements you researched? 
    • During the gallery walk, what similarities and differences did you notice between your group’s mosaic and those created by other groups? How did these comparisons deepen your understanding of international cooperation? 
    • Reflect on your role within your group and the contributions you made to the collaborative project. In what ways did your individual strengths and skills contribute to the success of the project? 
    • Think about the broader implications of international cooperation and the role of the United States and member nations. How do initiatives like the UN, NATO, NAFTA, and USMCA contribute to global stability, security, and economic prosperity? 
    • Consider how your perspective on international relations may have shifted due to this project. What new insights or questions do you have about the complexities of international cooperation and diplomacy? 


  • Compile photos and videos of the mosaic creation process, presentations, and gallery walk. 
  • Use video editing software to create a montage showcasing the collaborative journey and final creations of all the groups. 

Student Handouts