Joan Bauer - 
   Joan Bauer Joan Bauer - 
      Teaching 9-11
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needs to be developed and shared with educators throughout the country."

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: " 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.

Blog post:"Holding Hands"


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.

Dr. Paul B. Winkler
Executive Director
New Jersey Commission on Holocaust Education
Phone: (609) 292-9274
FAX: (609) 292-1211
P.O. BOX 500

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:

  • Liberty Science Center is located in full view of lower Manhattan across the Hudson and Liberty State Park. How our learning environments became a sanctuary for the families of victims and how we assisted with many facets of the aftermath of 9/11 became regarded as a model for how museums -- with their many unique types of resources -- can assist in the aftermath of any disaster in their proximity.
  • With its recent expansion and renewal, Liberty Science Center has become a globally-minded resource for living, learning and working in, and caring for the NYC-NJ region. Exhibitions such as Skyscrapers: Achievement and Impact and Goosebumps: The Science of Fear are for all ages of learning and help to increase interest, spur new insights and stimulate positive action in the world around us.
  • Whatever the barriers between a child's potential and the opportunities of science -- for example, children without homes and/or those consumed with a fearful attitude about the world they're growing up in -- Liberty Science Center seeks to be involved whenever it can do so. In partnership with The Families of September 11 and the NJ Holocaust Commission, a recent example was its July 1, 2008, forum to initiate how 9/11 and other acts of global terrorism can be best integrated into school curricula and with the expertise of teachers.

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.

Emlyn Koster, PhD
President and CEO
Liberty Science Center


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 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
Director, National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement (, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center and Advisory Board Member of Families of September 11

Healing Memories

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
International Trauma Studies Program

From Teachers

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.

Jean Bauer
Presidential Fellow
Corcoran School of History
University of Virginia

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.

Suzette Dilzer
Fifth grade language arts teacher

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

Resource Links

From the National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement
From the National September 11 Memorial & Museum StoryCorps:
Podcasts and other oral histories in the multi-media gallery:
National tour exhibition film:
New York State Museum
Tribute Center
FOS11 Resources and Articles
And in the FOS11 5th Commemoration newsletter:
Library of Congress
American Red Cross
Joan Bauer's Letter to a Teacher on September 11, Thoughts on September 11: Dear Teachers: Letters to Another Hero, Published by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) in Voices from the Middle, Volume 9 Number 2, December 2001

     We are left with the images that we will never forget.
     They've been branded on our minds. They are part of us now.
     Part of our past. Part of our future.
     Gradually, the pictures will fade, the shadows will take over.
     We'll tell ourselves we should be over it now.
     But we're not over it.
     Not yet.
     Maybe not ever.
     I stand at the Promenade in Brooklyn Heights and look across the East River to where the Trade Center had been. I've walked here all my life, walked here with my dog, walked here with my friends. I've Rollerbladed and eaten pizza here, I've laughed, been kissed (once well, once badly), but I never cried on the Promenade until September 11.
     I stand next to the piles of flowers, the photos of the missing, the candles flickering, the flags flying, the people standing quietly in clusters, holding coffee cups, holding each other, remembering the smell of smoke and death that settled over my city.
     We are the children of war.
     They took our parents, our sisters, our brothers, and our neighbors.
     They turned planes into bombs.
     A perfect sunny day became a horror.
     We keep talking about where we were when it happened.
     We'll always talk about it in some way.
     "Where were you?"
     I was in school.
     The lights went out when the first plane hit.
     No one knew what had happened.
     Then gradually the news came.
     We'll tell our children about it and our grandchildren.
     Mostly, we'll turn it over and over in our minds, trying to make sense of what can never be understood.
     If there are solutions, I want to help find them.
     I think one of the ways to find them is through teaching. I don't know what really qualifies anyone to stand in front of a classroom and teach, other than wanting to make things better, wanting to share ideas, wanting to be part of a community of learners.
     I am a New Yorker. I smelled the smoke, saw the ash from the towers, felt the fear settle over my shoulders, had the nightmares, lit the candles, went to the funerals. I wish to God that none of it had ever happened and I thank God that I was here when it did. I've been changed forever--that much I know. And because of that, I want to teach. I want to teach because I want to learn and understand. I believe we have a choice in this world, we, the children of war. We can learn from the hate, we can learn how to stop it, or we can learn to hate even more.

-- 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
  • Encourage student artwork and poetry that celebrates a better world.
  • Let students choreograph a dance to commemorate the anniversary.
  • Put up a poster so students can post their thoughts about the attack throughout the week.
  • Tell your class where you were and how you felt when you heard the news.
  • For High School -- Play from "The Rising," Bruce Springsteen's album dedicated to 911.

"...time begins to heal a tragic loss..."

Donna Gaffney































"...schools not only reflect 'official knowledge', but contribute to shaping it..."

Dr. Diana Hess





















"The tragedy and its aftermath became part of my journey into adulthood..."

Jean Bauer





















"...the students truly are the hope for understanding..."

Suzette Dilzer

copyright 2008 Joan Bauer