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Multimedia Curriculum Teaches About 9/11


In the fall of 2001, many classes were consumed with discussions about the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States, as students, teachers, and most Americans were trying to recover from the emotional toll of the events. Eight years later, many textbooks used across the country do not have comprehensive coverage of the 2001 attacks on New York City, the Pentagon, and Flight 93, which crashed in a field in Pennsylvania. But the September 11th Education Trust, founded by a group representing survivors and families of the victims of the World Trade Center destruction, has been working for years to develop lessons to ensure that schoolchildren learn about them.

The group unveiled the resulting program on its Teaching 9/11 Web site to coincide with this year's anniversary. The site includes multimedia lessons, video interviews, and an online forum where educators can discuss instructional strategies.


"The September 11th Education Program: A National Interdisciplinary Curriculum" features oral histories and primary documents that "teach about understanding 9/11 as history, debating the government's role during disasters, discussing the nature of heroism, evaluating foreign policy vis-à-vis national security, and clarifying how informed citizens can take beneficial action," according to the trust.

The seven units include technology features such as an interactive timeline and visual exploration of Ground Zero in New York City using Google Earth.

When I was writing about the influence of the attacks on curriculum and instruction at the time (see here, here, and here), teachers and administrators were struggling with how to engage students in discussions about Sept. 11 and the complex issues of domestic and foreign policy that were being fiercely debated.

I've lost track of just how much material and support are available to classroom teachers on the topic, but I'm sure many teachers are still seeking out guidance on 9/11-related instruction.

(Photo: The World Trade Center flag is folded after being presented as friends and relatives of the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks gather at Zuccotti Park, adjacent to ground zero, on the eighth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York. CREDIT: Jason DeCrow/AP)


Today, as I went through my calendar routine with my kindergarten class, my thoughts quickly moved to the events of 9/11. Like most people, I vividly remember the events of that day...where I was, watching the events on television, terrified of what I was seeing but unable to look away... Yet as I stood in front of my students thinking of that day, I couldn't bring myself to talk about the significance of the day. What would I say? How could I possible convey what 9/11 means to children who had not even been born? Should I bring up such a scary topic to such young students? But now, at the end of the day, I regret my decision to go on without saying a word. Had I known about the Teaching 9/11 website yesterday, I would have made a point to teach my students about 9/11.

On Friday, September 11, 2009, one other teacher and myself in a social studies department of eight, took a few minutes to talk about 9/11/01 with our classes. I didn't even realize it was going to be 9/11 until I walked into a co-workers classroom and started talking to her; she was looking up video-clips regarding the incident.

In a scramble I tried to find a clip that was short, yet, made it clear to my students that this was a defining moment in their history. Often in history class a student asks, "What's that have to do with us?" This tragic event impacts us everyday in cities, streets, airports, families, etc.

My co-worker emailed me a link and while watching tears came to my eyes. I didn't realize that I would still have such an emotional reaction to the pictures and newscasters' voices. It saddens me that other teachers in my department didn't take a few minutes to at least touch on the topic.

After reading the background information on "Teaching 9/11," it makes me hopeful that other educators are helping students remember and learn about the events and people who were impacted by 9/11. I plan on implementing some of this technology in my classroom towards the end of the year when my classes are discussing key events in recent history. Perhaps if students are able to interact with interviews, pictures, Google Earth, etc. he/she will begin to have a better understanding of how American's lives have changed. Although sitting and watching a short film-clip from You Tube may have drawn the students in for a short time, if there is a possibility to have them experiences pieces of 9/11 virtually these same students may begin to feel how history really does impact his/her life.

I wonder if so many teachers failed to discuss 9/11 because of the emotional reaction they have to it. We all know of the impact of Pearl Harbor, but since most teachers today were either not born or very young when it happened, there's very little emotion attached to discussing it. I wonder if teachers had difficulty discussion Pearl Harbor or the assassination of JFK eight years after it happened because it was still so hard to talk about. I don't think teachers failed to discuss 9/11 because they didn't care. I think the wound is still open for so many people that it's easier to say nothing at all.

True, it is easier to say nothing at all, but I look at what society has done with the tragedy of 9/11 and I can't help but wonder if the raw pain is still there, then how is it possible that the movie industry has already made a movie about the events of 9/11? It is one thing for a movie to be made about Pearl Harbor decades after it occurred but if the movie industry is already making money off the tragedy shouldn't teachers be willing to speak about the event in the classroom about the impacts of the attack? As you wrote earlier, looking back at the end of the day you wished you would have said something. Knowing the teachers I work with, it wasn't a matter of being sensitive to the events of 9/11 that stopped them from speaking of it. Granted, I can only guess but, these co-workers just didn't feel the need to talk about 9/11 eight years after the event occurred. If teachers aren't willing to talk these issues and events that impact the world then in what venue will our students get the opportunity to talk/learn about such life-changing events?

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