September 11 can be a difficult subject for students to make
sense of, but teachers have an expanding set of resources to help
students think about the day.
Many teachers are putting aside their typical lessons Friday to
make the 9/11 anniversary meaningful to their students, whether they
remember the attacks directly or hadn't yet been born.
Daniel Maley is bringing to class a simple artifact: a piece of
yellow caution tape he found on the ground in Somerset, Penn., where
one of the hijacked planes crashed. The police tape is visible in a
film he shows his high school students, so he pauses it right there
and brings out the tape, along with photos from his visit to the
site a month after the 2001 attacks.
"Students always have keener interest when you bring it to them
on a personal level," says Mr. Maley, who teaches Geopolitical
Studies to seniors at Hatboro-Horsham High School near Philadelphia.
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He starts the discussion by asking what they remember of that
day. The main question that still tends to emerge: Why were we
attacked? So throughout the term he helps them think critically
about the complicated history of terrorism, the difference between
Islamic terrorists and the broader Muslim community, and the ways US
actions are perceived around the world.
"My goal ultimately would be to make them diplomats, in the sense
that they're going to seek solutions to these issues, as opposed to
[the initial response of] 'Let's just go bomb 'em,' " he says.
For educators wondering how best to make the anniversary a
teachable moment, a coalition of 9/11 organizations has created age-
appropriate lesson plans in subjects ranging from art to social
studies. They're available online at www.911dayofservice.org. More
than 6,500 teachers have downloaded the plans so far.
A high school lesson on the site has students delve into the 9/
11 Commission Report. Middle-schoolers focus on the figurative
language in Bruce Springsteen's 2002 songs responding to 9/11.
Elementary students read an illustrated poem about St. Paul's Chapel
near ground zero, which became a home base for rescue workers.
In videos on the website, students can hear first-hand accounts
from a New York police officer on duty that day and a principal who
had to evacuate her school amid the ash cloud. …