Remembering September 11th and Moving Forward

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Each year, our 5th graders learn about September 11th as a part of their social studies standards.  They have to know about the events of the day as well as how that act of terrorism has impacted our lives today.  It’s a scary topic for an elementary student who has no memories of this event.  For them, it’s really just a part of history that doesn’t resonate in the same way as it does for adults.  That doesn’t mean that we can’t explore this tough subject.

We look at the day from multiple angles and see what we can discover about terrorism but also the heroism of the day.  We’ve used this tragedy to think about how we respond to sadness, how we memorialize those who mean so much to us, and how we create good in the world.

We spread our learning across an entire day.  Each teacher leads a different part of the day and students rotate through several experiences.

With me, students use a Symbaloo to explore online content.  I love Symbaloo because I can group the links together in a meaningful way.  I split the links into 4 areas: looking back & reflecting, the events of the day, rebuilding, and remembering.  When students came in, I used our Flipgrid responses from last year to talk about how we have to rely on people’s memories and what has been left behind in order to learn about and learn from history.

Last year’s Flipgrid

We also talked about how different the documentation of 9/11 would be if it happened today.  It happened at a time when smart phones, instagram, Twitter, and Facebook didn’t exist.  We also talked about our comfort level with tragedy.  I labeled several of the links “graphic” so that students could decide if they really wanted to click on that area.  Students could stop at any point and take a break in the hallway or with the counselor.

Our 9/11 pathfinder

At the close of my session, students had a chance to talk about what they heard and saw.

With Ms. Mullins, students looked at the first responders of 9/11, including the rescue dogs.  They used the information they learned to write haikus in response to the heroism.

With Ms. Selleck, students read 14 Cows for America and talked about how other countries responded to our tragedy.  We saw September 11 as a time when other countries felt our pain and reached out to help us.  Students responded by creating artwork to symbolize a response to tragedy.

With Ms. Olin, students read Fireboat and talked about how everyone pulled together on September 11 to help one another regardless of jobs or beliefs.  We were all Americans.

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After lunch, we had a guest speaker.  Bob Hart has created a 9/11 memorial trail right here in Athens, and he came to tell the students about how he got the idea, what each part of the trail represents, and answer questions from the students

Bob Hart’s 9/11 Memorial Trail in Athens, GA

This was a new piece to our 9/11 remembrance day and it was powerful.  Bob had so many touching tributes to the victims, and each part of  his memorial was thoughtful and created with love and respect.  His trail is open to the public, so I’m sure many students will want to visit.

We even found out that his trail is featured in a Weird Georgia book which we have in the library!

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At the close of our day, students used Flipgrid to record their haikus, artwork, and reflections.  Three volunteers came in to help me facilitate the recording so that students had a quiet space.  You simply have to listen to their voices!

Students shared art, poetry, and reflections about 9/11 on a Flipgrid

While this day is tragic, it is a day that I cherish each year because our kids take so much away from the day about heroism, response to tragedy, and the pride of being an American.

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