Lesson Plans a 'Memorial'; Teachers Given Latitude in classrooms.(PAGE ONE)(9/11: LEST WE FORGET)

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), September 6, 2002 | Go to article overview
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Lesson Plans a 'Memorial'; Teachers Given Latitude in classrooms.(PAGE ONE)(9/11: LEST WE FORGET)


Byline: Vaishali Honawar, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Area schools will host luncheons, plant trees and observe moments of silence to mark the anniversary of September 11. But how the attacks are handled in the classroom Wednesday - and the rest of the school year - largely will be up to the teachers.

Prince George's and Montgomery counties are suggesting teachers visit the Internet for resources they can use for guidance during discussions of the attacks with students.

The District will teach students about peace and a global perspective to make them aware that the United States is "part of a larger world community, and our destinies as Americans are interconnected."

Teachers are instructed to focus "not only on promoting peace and tolerance in our own schools and communities, but in the world at large," say pamphlets distributed by the school system. Discussions for high school students could cover issues such as war and peace on the international stage, while those at elementary schools may look at adults in their community who maintain a peaceful world for them, like teachers, police, firefighters and paramedics.

Fairfax is not asking teachers to create a special curriculum but instead is encouraging regular course work Wednesday.

Regardless, social studies educators say they expect to have several discussions with their students about the attacks.

"Children are going to say, 'How is this going to impact me, my community, my family?'" said Kurt Waters, social studies chairman at Centreville High School.

Fairfax County, the largest school district in the region, last week held a training session for social studies teachers on how to deal with questions about the violence and the terror. Hundreds of educators packed an auditorium at Lake Braddock Secondary to listen to speakers from area universities and schools.

One called for making the day a celebration of freedom. Another stressed the need to avoid the coupling of Islam with terrorism. Teachers also were directed to a Web site, www.911digitalarchive.org, that compiled resources on September 11, including stories from eyewitnesses and photographs.

Teachers said later they were pleased that the school district was leaving it up to them to tailor the lesson plans based on their classrooms' needs.

"I like that I wasn't given any one answer here, that I was given different resources so I could put them together in the best mix for my classroom and create lessons around September 11," Mr. Waters said.

In the District, schools will develop activities based on September 11 throughout the year, including essay and poster contests, said Sally Schwartz, director of international programs for the city's schools. On Wednesday, students at each school will develop projects to promote world peace.

"We really are committed to making this day a living memorial," she said.

In Prince George's County, educators are creating suggested lesson plans in which teachers can discuss trauma and reactions to trauma, as well as lead classroom discussions about the attacks. They also will engage students in research projects, said Dorothy Harrison, community relations specialist for the school system.

But she stressed the need to provide only facts. "It is not for us to give opinions. We have to keep our feelings out of this," she said.

Educators say they owe it to their students to connect the events leading up to the attack when talking about the attacks, because children tend to see big events like these in isolation.

"September 11 will be a central event in shaping this generation's worldview when they assume power," said James Morris, a history teacher at West Springfield High in Fairfax County. "Some want us to avoid the issue altogether, but we have no options. To avoid 9/11 is to shirk our responsibilities as educators.

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