"Curriculum Dr. Paul Winkler
Dr. Paul Winkler
This is a call to action; a call to teachers everywhere to not let this seventh anniversary of the terrorist attacks go by without mention or meaning. This page is here to help you. It's packed with resources, thoughts, and suggestions. Years ago, Eleanor Roosevelt put forth a challenge: "...do the thing you think you cannot do." I believe that peace is rooted in hope, hope opens doors to understanding, and understanding gives us courage.
I approach this September 11th with a profound sense of gratitude -- I still have my husband. Evan had been invited to the breakfast at Windows on the World, Tower One, at the Trade Center on the morning of September 11, 2001. He didn't go because we were moving. By the end of the week, he knew twelve friends and colleagues who had died. It's too long a story to tell here about how my family and I moved from Connecticut into New York City three days after the attacks. But that experience has changed our lives.
The seeds of this page began at a remarkable conference at the Liberty Science Center in New Jersey this July. Evan and I joined educators, scientists, therapists, nurses, physicians, and Governor Tom Kean, chairman of the 9/11 Commission, to discuss how to teach about 9/11 and terrorism. I was one of the conference speakers and have been touched by the power of that day ever since. Extensive curriculum initiatives are underway thanks to the efforts of the Liberty Science Center, The Families of September 11th, and the New Jersey Commission on Holocaust Education, but for this September I asked some of the presenters as well as classroom teachers to share their thoughts.
I hope you will use this page and add your ideas and your classroom experiences. If you have lesson plans you'd be willing to contribute, we'd be most grateful.
May this be the beginning of a new season and a time of renewal.
Teaching academic standards in the classroom from kindergarten through 12th grade is easy when compared to instructing students in understanding and learning not only about the day of 9/11/01, but of the underlying factors that allowed the terrorist attack to happen and how it effected America. Therefore, we must at the same time instruct our students not only about the content of 9/11, but of the importance of continuing to ensure that our students understand and do not carry out the evil acts of bias, prejudice and intolerance in their classrooms and communities. In other words, we do not become those that we condemn and we only condemn those that carried out the act.
What we do in the primary and elementary grades compared to the middle and high schools is certainly different information, but it must be included in classroom curriculum not only as a commemorative program on the anniversary, but throughout the year and infused in general curriculum. In providing education in this way, academic standards may be met while teaching affective education.
Curriculum needs to be developed and shared with educators throughout the country as is being done in New Jersey with a coalition of the association of families of 9/11, the Liberty Science Center of New Jersey and the New Jersey Commission on Holocaust Education who will be coordinating the development of the material.
A Museum's Mission
Perhaps at first glance, the connection between Liberty Science Center and the aftermath of September 11, 2001 might not be an obvious one. Keys to understanding the linkage lie in a combination of how we became involved in the NJ Family Assistance Center in the six months following 9/11; how our mission takes an encompassing view of science through the lens of nature, humanity and technology; and how we are active in tackling barriers between a child's life and her/his access to the excitement and opportunities of science. Here are a few elaborating comments:
For too long the museum field has tended to be inwardly focused on collections, exhibitions and about the past. I join a growing number of voices that the museum field should, more and more, beneficially evolve its attention to complex issues in contemporary and future timeframes, and with as much focus on the museum's content as the museum's audience. Questions of who comes, who doesn't come, and why not, should occupy our field much more than they have in the past.
As we approach the 7th anniversary of September 11, 2001, we can anticipate that children and adults alike may find themselves re-experiencing some of the feelings from that day or the events that followed. Since the date itself is so closely linked to the event (i.e., people need only refer to it as "the events of September 11th" or simply "9-11"), even the youngest students will be well aware of the anniversary and its significance. Many teachers and school administrators, though, may feel personally impacted themselves by the events or unprepared by virtue of their training and opt to avoid discussion or even recognition of the anniversary because of a fear of saying or doing the wrong thing -- but in reality, saying and doing nothing is precisely the wrong thing. It communicates to children that either we find the events of September 11th to be trivial or feel that we and/or they are unable to discuss this critical event in our country's history and the impact it has had on us and others throughout the world. Providing instead an opportunity for students to participate in a discussion or informal commemorative activity creates an opportunity for them to take an active role in constructing an enduring memory and to select both what and how they wish to remember and honor what of importance was lost or permanently altered. As a group, they can increase their understanding of and adjustment to the event. But for this to be meaningful to the students, they must be involved actively in the planning and the events should be relevant to their interests and developmental needs. This may be a somewhat new and challenging experience for some school teachers -- further guidelines prepared by the National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement for preparation for the 5th anniversary can be found at http://www.cincinnatichildrens.org/svc/alpha/s/school-crisis/9-11.htm. But taking on important challenges to help others advance their understanding is what teaching and schools is all about and models for students how adults value the educational process, value them as individuals (by addressing an issue that is so important to them), and how we value our community and country. It's hard to envision a more important lesson.
David J Schonfeld, MD
I saw Man on Wire recently, the story of Philippe Petit's walk across a tightrope suspended between the twin towers in 1974. It was riveting. People applauded at the end of the film, talked to each other and to strangers as they exited the theater. The images of the towers, the slurry wall in its infancy, the slow but steady rise of the building- story by story, the workers in hardhats and ultimately the sight of one man walking on air between the two buildings are etched in my mind. I can't stop thinking about them or the story. It occurred to me that something quite extraordinary was happening in the theater. Something that was ultimately more captivating than watching the daredevil Frenchman pull off one of the greatest feats in modern time. It was as if we, the movie goers were turning back the pages of an old scrap book- remembering and smiling at the World trade Center as it was--- not for what it has become since September 11, 2001. At some point the audience felt what survivors feel as time begins to heal a tragic loss. The last, frightening images of a loved one are replaced with warm remembrances of times past. There is no question that the loss of human life was devastating, but we can not escape the fact that part of our world, a presence in our day to day lives was also taken from us on September 11th. Man on Wire gives us an opportunity to fondly remember the buildings that anchored the New York City skyline for decades. And with those memories we continue to heal.
Donna A. Gaffney, APRN, BC, DNSc, FAAN
It's hard for me to talk about the events of September 11, 2001. When the towers fell I was 19 and about to head back from New York to the University of Chicago for my sophomore year of college. The tragedy and its aftermath became a part of my journey into adulthood, and I'll never know how much they affected who I am today. Now I am a doctoral candidate at the University of Virginia. When the shootings occurred at Virginia Tech in the spring of 2007 I was a teaching assistant with sixty students in my three discussion sections. As the media descended on Virginia I found myself having flashbacks to the blitz of images from the World Trade Center that intensified and came to create my anxiety and depression until I learned how to block them out and talk with my family and friends about what I was feeling. I decided I couldn't keep my lessons from my students when so many of them were grieving for lost, wounded, or frightened friends and family members. That week in discussion section, instead of starting with the first reading, I simply told my students where I'd been on September 11th and what I'd been through in the months that followed. I let them know that fear, anxiety, and depression were understandable and normal reactions to tragedy, but that ignoring them (as I had tried to do) was dangerous and unhealthy. Friends, family and trained counsellors were the best way to get through something like this. I suggested they stop reading newspapers or watching TV news if the images disturbed them. I reminded them of my office hours and invited them to come and talk if they thought it might help. It took five maybe ten minutes and then I went on with the lesson. No one came to see me, but I could tell from they way they listened that they would find other people who could help them. As a teacher I could do nothing less.
I feel that students need to be taught why 9/11 occurred but also how to be a part of preventing events like this in the future. Fear or jealousy due to a lack of understanding, leading to intolerance and then hatred occurs worldwide and the students truly are the hope for understanding why this happens and how to help stop this devastating chain of events from being set off in their futures. Siblings experience these emotions at times in families when they feel threatened by new arrivals and feel a sense of competition that makes them fearful of losing their position. If parents do not carefully foster relations, hatred can and does develop in families. I try to help students understand the feelings people may have and validate them, so that they can understand motivations, while also teaching them why violence is not an acceptable solution to these issues. When we are insecure we want to obtain the most power in a situation to resolve those feelings. If we teach kids how to recognize these emotional issues, be sensitive to them and address them in a proactive way they will be a part of ending intolerance in the future. If people choose violence regardless of all your efforts you also need to take measures to defend yourself, and our country has a responsibility to do so effectively.
I was supposed to meet a friend of mine near the World Trade Center on the morning of 9/11 for coffee. I was running late that day and called my friend from the train platform, but there was no answer. Only later did I learn that my friend survived. She told me about the total chaos, how surreal it felt, the panic. In the midst of this she remembered her friend's uncle who had a sneaker store nearby. She weaved through people and somehow arrived at the store. The owner of the store was yelling and grabbing women and men to give them sneakers so that they could get away. Women were taking off their high heeled shoes and putting on running sneakers that this man was so frantically trying to find for them. If you are a New Yorker, then you'll know that parts of lower Manhattan still have cobble stoned streets and so these sneakers were truly a gift. My friend just stood and watched and wept. He shook her and gave her some shoes and then pushed her out the door. He said that he'd be okay and that he'd leave soon. She walked home to Queens in those sneakers. She made it home and so did he.
On September 11th 2007, I told this story to the 4th grade class I was student teaching in on the upper east side of Manhattan. We had been sharing our thoughts about what we could learn from this tragedy. I hadn't told this story, let alone even think about it for a long time, and I could hardly control the trembling of my voice. The students were speechless at this man's courage and generosity. The discussion elevated to their own behaviors in the classroom. Some of the students said things like, "I could have let "Jane" go before me on line yesterday" and we could have picked up book bags and coats in the closet even if they weren't ours. In this brief moment, the students considered how they could be considerate to one another. They shared the possibilities of creating a classroom community without even realizing that was what they were doing.
A 4th Grade Teacher
From the National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement
-- From "Children of War" by Joan Bauer, excerpted from 911: The Book of Help
If you have broached this subject of 9/11 and terrorism with your students in the past, have lesson plans you would consider sharing, or just want to comment, we'd love to hear from you. Write us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"...time begins to heal a tragic loss..."
"...schools not only reflect 'official knowledge', but
contribute to shaping it..."
Dr. Diana Hess
Dr. Diana Hess
"The tragedy and its aftermath became part of my journey into
"...the students truly are the hope for understanding..."
copyright 2008 Joan Bauer