Creative Commons Usage. Photo by Wally G.
The morning of September 11, 2001 started as a beautiful sunny day in New York City. By lunchtime, life as we knew it in America had changed completely. The attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, along with the crash of the 4th plane in Pennsylvania have since influenced adult lives in numerous ways.
Now it’s ten years later, and the children we have in elementary school have no memory of the events on 9/11/2001. They either weren’t born, or were too young to remember the day. How do you talk to children who have no connection to this piece in American history?
In the intermediate library classes, I decided our lessons would be about the events of 9/11.
this approach would give the students would have some factual knowledge about 9/11. I think history is a lot less scary when it’s talked about openly and honestly.
We started the 5th and 6th grade lessons with the basic question, what do you know about September 11, 2001?
“Two planes crashed…”
“Planes crashed into the Twin Towers and they fell down…”
“I don’t know”
“There was a terrorist attack…”
What question do you have about this day?
” I want more details about the day.”
“Why do terrorists do what they do?”
“What really happened on 9/11?”
After we collected these questions, the students heard the book, America Is Under Attack by Don Brown.
According the the book description:
The events of September 11, 2001 changed the world forever. …. Don Brown narrates the events of the day in a way that is both accessible and understandable for young readers. Straightforward and honest, this account moves chronologically through the morning, from the plane hijackings to the crashes at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and Pennsylvania; from the rescue operations at the WTC site to the collapse of the buildings. Vivid watercolor illustrations capture the emotion and pathos of the tragedy making this an important book about an unforgettable day in American history.”
When the book was over, the students then shared a thought, a word, a feeling or a sentence about a fact they had learned from hearing the book.
Their ideas were written on anonymous Post-in notes and placed on the front board.
“Sad, painful, angry, why?” were the typical responses.
One student wrote,
“I feel sad and mad for the people who lost their lives in the events that happened that day.”
I am hopeful that the students walked away with some new information that answered their previous questions.
In fourth grade, I introduced the event of 9/11 by showing some of the fact books and we talked briefly about the significance of September, 11, 2001.
Then we read, Fireboat: The Heroic Adventures of the John J. Harvey by Maira Kalman.
This book tells the story of how the retired and then restored John J. Harvey fireboat contributed toward fighting the fires at the World Trade Center.
The third graders read The Man Who Walked Between the Towers by Mordicai Gerstein.
This Caldecott Medal winner is about the tightrope walker, Philippe Petit, who walked on a tight rope between the Twin Towers on August 7, 1974 before the towers were finished being built. For almost an hour, Petit walked, danced, ran and knelt upon the wire. At one point he even lay down to rest on it! This book does reference that the towers are gone at the end, but the main emphasis of the story is on the performance Petit gave in 1974.
Students who are interested in learning more about this American event can check out:
14 Cows for America presents an illustrated tale of a gift of fourteen cows given by the Maasai people of Kenya to the U.S. as a gesture of comfort and friendship in the wake of the attacks of September 11, 2001.
The 9-11 Tribute book tells the story of the attack on the Twin towers primarily through photographs and captions.
What did you learn about 9/11 in class?
If you are a visitor,
what did you learn about 9/11 at your school?