With the 10th Anniversary of 9-11 approaching, I've had a few friends and colleagues ask me how I plan to explain/teach about this event to a group of students whom were toddlers when it happened. How do people learn about something they can only imagine? The authors of the September 11th Education Program would say: MAKE THIS COME ALIVE FOR STUDENTS. (As you might expect... Mrs. Barry has plans!)
As a kid, I remember growing up and hearing my parents talk about where they were when they heard important news:
~My grandmother remembers listening to the radio and hearing when Pearl Harbor was attacked in 1941. My father was an infant then. HE didn't experience WWII, but he was able to connect and learn about it because of his parents' experiences.
~In 1959 my dad was lucky enough to have been at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa, the night Buddy Holly played for the last time. Holly's plane crashed later that night. Every time he hears "That'll Be the Day" it takes him back.
~My step-mother remembers exactly where she was when she heard that President Kennedy was shot in 1963. She was 13 and in middle school. She always felt our nation was robbed of a really great President.
And I have my own experiences:
~I remember hearing that President Reagan had been shot in 1981. I was in 3rd grade.
~I remember watching the Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster on TV in 1986. I was in 8th grade.
~I remember watching the wall that separated East and West Germany come down in 1989. I was a junior in high school.
~I remember hearing the news the Twin Towers had been attacked on September, 11th, 2001. I was teaching 4th grade at Bowman Woods Elementary. I was already at school and had no access to TV. My students came in and told me what had happened. I did not get to see a news broadcast until 4:00 p.m. that day. I was nervous all day. I was 29 years old.
~I remember hearing that Osama Bin Laden had been killed in May, 2011. I was up late watching the news. I was 39 years old. I felt proud of our nation's armed forces for many years of service and sacrifice.
Each event show cases a point in time significant to each individual. Most of the events are tragic, but a few ended well. We won World War II, Reagan didn't die, the people of Germany tore down the wall, and Bin Laden was captured/killed.
All these events and many other events not mentioned tend to bring people together. Whether we are part of the same family, religion, race, community, country, etc. events like these tend to unite people for a common cause. Whether it be working in a factory in 1942, mourning outside of an airport in 1959 for a music legend, crying for an astronaut, or a teacher that died too young, or praying for a stranger that died on the 98th floor of building in New York City one unforgettable September morning--WE became united. How appropriate our founding father's thought to include that word-UNITED in our nation's name!
My memories/events may be different than yours. There are so many events to name, how does one choose the most significant? And, and yes we can learn ABOUT these events and FROM these events even if we weren't there! The key is providing meaningful connections for our children so they can understand why things are the way they are post 9/11. For example, why we have new airport regulations, or what an "Orange Alert" is or why when I rode the Staten Island Ferry in 2005 there was an armed soldier riding on the front of the boat....and why it's important to not stereotype or discriminate others.... So what will we be talking about in our classroom this week: ALL of THIS and MORE!
Here are some great links we will be using in the classroom to learn about the events of 9/11:
This September 11th, I hope you find a moment to honor the citizens who perished in 2001, and I encourage you to play "Where were you when...?" with your families.