Each year as a part of their social studies standards, our 5th graders learn about September 11th. We try to take an entire day and explore September 11th from multiple perspectives and angles so that our students understand the tragedy but also how tragedy can lead us to take action in the world. This year, we were excited to collaborate with Shannon Miller and her students in Van Meter, Iowa on this project.
Today at Barrow, students began their day in their classrooms. They discussed heroes and set a tone of seriousness and reflection for the day. Then students launched into four 30-minute rotations.
1. With Ms. Olin, students read the book Fireboat, discussed the many heroes that responded on 9/11, and learned about ways that heroes are honored. Students designed a postage stamp for heroes.
2. With Mrs. Selleck, students read some reflections that were written by New York students after the tragedy happened. Students learned about how people respond to tragedy in many ways. They also read 14 Cows for America by Carmen Deedy to see that even people in far away countries wanted to support America in any way that they could because of this tragedy.
3. With Mrs. Mullins, students looked at other heroes of 9/11 from the rescue dogs to the everyday citizens aboard the United 93 that took over the hijackers and saved the US from another potential large scale disaster. Students also learned about the poetry form haiku and how it can be a way to reflect upon a tragedy or honor someone. Students wrote haikus for heroes. Mrs. Freeman recorded several students reading their poems.
Students then went to a pathfinder on computers and sat all over our media center in complete silence as they viewed multiple websites about 9/11. The sites ranged from video footage of the tragedy to interactive timelines to audio recordings of memories from victims’ family members. At the close, students thought about what they might do to honor 9/11. Along with students from Van Meter, we created a padlet where each student wrote an “I will” statement.
At the close of the day, students wrote reflections using 2 prompts: 1. September 11th makes me think about…. and 2. My hope for the future is… We filmed these students and added their reflections to a collaborative video between Barrow and Van Meter.
September 11th is a tough subject with disturbing content. We made sure that every student had multiple options for how they might learn about the day. Students also had permission to no watch anything that disturbed them and could take a break at any time to do something else or to read books or write. After doing this each year, I feel like this format really explores more than the tragedy and helps students see that in tragedy heroes emerge and any person can make a positive difference in the world.
Our students will continue to talk about this with families, explore the pathfinder sites in their classrooms, and contribute to our padlet wall. We invite anyone reading this to contribute to the “I will” wall too. http://padlet.com/wall/wewill