Episode 49: Ideas For Remembering 9/11 In The High School Classroom
While using holidays as a source of inspiration for lessons is a common practice in the lower grades, tackling a day as serious as 9/11 can yield important and productive teaching moments at the high school level. While some may shy away from this topic, it is possible to incorporate a respectful and meaningful lesson on Sept. 11 that connects and enhances the curriculum for your subject area discipline.
Why Discuss 9/11 in the Classroom
1| Nearly all students in k-12 education now were born after Sept. 11, 2001 and those that were alive were much too young to have first-hand memories of the event. Without speaking about it directly in class, students will have little exposure to this significant cultural moment. History classes have a lot of area to cover, and few courses will make it to something as modern as 9/11. Despite the fact that students will not have direct experience with it, the aftermath of that day is still very much a part of the political and cultural landscape even to this day. Given that students of this generation are being labeled Homelanders, it makes sense that they should know the origin intimately.
2| This provides an authentic opportunity to teach about primary sources in an accessible way. Many courses are arranged chronologically, and while this makes sense, it means that dealing with primary sources presents an even greater challenge because the style in which these sources are written seem so archaic and the topics, too, are often completely foreign. Primary sources about 9/11 will use language that seems much more familiar and the students will have a general knowledge about the events being referenced. Though outside of the typical order, students will buy into the fact that class is taking a break from typically scheduled lessons because it makes sense to cover it on the anniversary of the event itself, not realizing that you have additional motives for doing this.
3| While one might initially associate debates and 9/11 with politics and conspiracy theories, there are still other ways to use this topic to stimulate academic venturing into any overly loaded controversies. Because this event has stimulated so much art, questions regarding ownership of the event and who has the right to use this as inspiration can stimulate real debate. Whether this event genuinely changed the landscape of art or literature or cultural more generally is also a real area for academic argument.
How to Make a Lesson Centered on 9/11
Billy Collins’s “The Names” is a remarkable piece for students to examine. After reading the short poem, students can watch Collins perform it with a photo tribute to the victims here.
Take the lesson a step further with their suggested extension activity designed to make students consider when and how cultural divides form. Get this entire lesson to use with your English, Social Studies, Journalism, or History class here
The memorial itself opened on the 10th anniversary and the museum opened in 2014. Take the virtual tour and discuss what seems most impactful.
Bonus Idea Leave it to the pros