I was in sixth grade on September 11, 2001, and when I close my eyes I can still see – clear as if they’re happening now – the events of that day. My physical education teacher breaking the news of the attacks to my class; the obvious fear on the faces of my classmates; even the too-small Michael Jordan Chicago Bulls jersey I’d worn that day to celebrate my hero’s return to basketball.
Most of us have vivid recollections of that terrible Tuesday. But I also have strong memories of subsequent September 11ths, when my teachers sought to find a way to both relate and commemorate the day’s scope, scale, and tragedy. Most of the time, my teachers seemed a bit unsure of how to observe the day: usually we watched an emotional video, grew emotional ourselves, and stumbled out into the hallway with heavy hearts when the bell rang. The nation might have known how to commemorate the attacks, but not how to deal with them in a classroom setting.
Now, from my intern’s desk at the Department of Education, it seems like that’s starting to change. The Smithsonian Institution has teamed up with the three national memorials to 9/11 – at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania – to present a series of webinars that will air August 3 and 4. The webinars share information about how to effectively teach a variety of age groups about 9/11. The sessions are free and open to everyone, online at this link.
In just over a month, America will observe the 10th anniversary of September 11, a day that still recalls strong emotions for those of us who remember it. Many of today’s elementary and secondary school students are too young to really remember the day and its meaning. Next week’s webinars will help educators prepare for a difficult, but important part of their jobs: teaching about 9/11.
For more info, including lesson plans and other teaching materials, you can use these resources:
- K-12 Lessons and Activities provides resources for teaching about 9/11 from the Smithsonian conference.
- Find 9/11 Memorial events this link.
- Access resources to teach and learn about 9/11 in New York and the New York 9/11 Memorial.
- Check out the 9/11 Memorial Teaching Guide.
Sam Barnett is an intern in the Office of Communication and Outreach and a senior studying journalism at Northwestern University.