Teaching Students About Sept. 11 [VIDEO]

Across Long Island educators aim to bring context and age-appropriate lessons to the classroom.

For many the image of the burning Twin Towers is seared into our collective memory. How can such a horrible moment be explained to those who have little if any recollection of the Sept. 11 attacks?

It is an issue educators all over Long Island are navigating through this week.

When addressing the 10th anniversary of 9/11, educators aim to bring context to the discussion, bearing in mind age-appropriate take-away messages for their audience.

Depending on their grades, students will learn about first responders, civil liberties, research methods, literature, history and more.

David Meoli, principal of  in Port Washington, said his staff has responded to the changing perspective that a new generation of children brings to the classroom.

“We couldn’t shield kindergarteners at the time, so we had to cope with it,” Meoli recalled.

“There was more discussion when it was a fresher occurrence,” he added. “Kids were asking a lot more questions.”

This year educators at the school have chosen Friday to touch on 9/11. That way if students see something on television or when passing by a newsstand, they’ll have a point of reference.

“Now we mostly treat it historically, proactively, letting them know something catastrophic happened that affected a lot people in this country and in this area,” Meoli said.

Students will hear an announcement over the Sousa Elementary public address system Friday with the message there is more good than bad in the world, and that brave people aim to keep the world safe.

The school librarian has pulled a number of child-friendly resources, so teachers can point interested students to suitable information.

“We try to make [students] aware in terms of tools – who to go to if they have questions, especially if they’re anxious” Meoli noted.

Joe Leavy chairs the humanities, English and social studies departments at the middle and high schools in the . To honor those affected by the Sept. 11 attacks, students will attend a 10-minute memorial service.

It’s a time for reflection, Leavy said. One colleague, he noted, is also a U.S. Air Force reservist, who always attends the service in uniform.

Again depending on the grade, students will have the chance to explore and deliberate on terrorism, security and freedom, taking into consideration the Patriot Act.

They’ll back discussions with research and evidence. “It’s a teachable moment,” Leavy said.

Teachable moments also include lessons found in literature, said William Kiernan. He teaches English and philosophy at  in South Huntington.

Just by being New Yorkers, St. Anthony's students likely know someone who was affected by Sept. 11, Kiernan said.

At this time of year, Kiernan likes to share poetry with students without revealing the author or title. The poetry may include themes about nature and rebirth. Students tend to assume a poem was written about the attacks, only to learn later it was about a different point in time.

“We really try to show that literature can be this source of power and understanding for experiences that everyday humans go through and they don’t always understand why they’re going through it or what they can glean from it,” Kiernan pointed out.

Camille Corbisiero teaches fourth grade at  in Port Washington. On Friday, she’ll tell students what Sept. 11 was like for her, and how concerned she and her colleagues were about people they knew who were in lower Manhattan that day.

To give students peace of mind, she tells them “so many people are watching out for you,” discussing police, fire fighters and soldiers.

Adding a personal note, she refers to her own children. Her son was a captain in the U.S. Army at the time and later went to serve in Iraq and became a major, she said. Her daughter went on to work as an executive assistant for Tom Ridge, the first Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, she said.

Corbisiero guides students to chart what they’ve learned, what they want to know and — after they’ve conducted online research — what they’ve learned. On Monday, she’ll follow up to see if there are any questions.

Sept. 11 is “a frightening story,” Corbisiero said. “But I think it’s something they have to know.”

Haig September 09, 2011 at 02:01 AM
Frankly, I'm surprised this topic is even being discussed in today's schools. I'm sure the liberal educators will temper it and not make mention of the muslems and their hatred of America. I also wouldn't be surprised if they put the thought into the children's heads, that it was a conspiracy by the Bush administration.
Jacob Henner September 09, 2011 at 02:43 AM
So many of the schools tone down the lessons, making them, in my opinion, ineffective. Instead of talking about what actually happened that day, they instead preach "community" or "understanding", the latter which is especially irrelevant, what is there to understand about September 11th, more than the attacks and surrounding circumstances? More than 3,000 people died at the hands of America's enemies that day, and children grade four and up should know that. The lessions should not be toned down, it'd be doing the fallen an injustice and would be extremely disrespectful to their memories.
Mark Wilson September 09, 2011 at 02:39 PM
GOD ONLY KNOWS what they are turning this into in schools. OOOps, I said the "G" word and we know you can't say that in schools !
Bill Abbott September 09, 2011 at 03:05 PM
I love the USA . I do not believe the govt story. 9-11 was an inside job. Building 7 says plenty. Turn off the TV's/ main stream media. Unplug from the hate and fear mongering. Look for ways to spread peace and that will bring more peace.
Jeanne September 09, 2011 at 05:19 PM
Two words come to mind...gullible and naive. Can't let facts...or history...get in the way of your world view, huh?
Bill Abbott September 09, 2011 at 05:49 PM
Jeanne I appreciate your comment. I gave my view on one event. How did you know what my world view? I did not mention it. What specific facts are you referring to? When I watched the towers fall I wondered how they fell so straight. I also have trouble with the way building 7 came down. It was not hit by a plane. It did house some very vital information never to be recovered. I wish I could believe the official story but it does not add up in my mind. That is just one mans opinion. I mean no ill will by sharing it here.
Jeanne September 09, 2011 at 09:30 PM
You are correct I cannot know your world view with certainty, but I can make an inference in the way you connect the two points you made. One, you believe 9-11 was an “inside job”. Two, you preached we should let go of hate and search for peace. It seems clear you draw a connection between the two, and that is where you let your philosophy show through. I could hardly argue against promoting peace as an issue all on its own. As to how the buildings fell, you are, of course entitled to your opinion. Personally, I believe any suggestion of government involvement is beyond ridiculous and not worthy of discussion. It follows that you don’t believe 9-11 was a result of Muslim extremism, and that you see our reaction as rooted in “hate and fear”. I would strongly argue that our response had much more to do with self-preservation. The facts I was referring to are that we are hated by most in the Middle-East, confirmed many times over in recent history alone. No amount of goodwill or tolerance will win them over. Their problem with us is not over a mere difference of opinion, or even some action we took against them. Radical Muslims have a fundamental disgust with everything we stand for. If you choose to ignore what these facts tells us, it is probably safe to assume your philosophy is one of "turn the other cheek". If this was not your message, then your original post is misleading. In any case, I did not get an impression that you meant any ill will.
Jeanne September 09, 2011 at 09:42 PM
Looking for ways to spread peace only works if the other side is interested in peace themselves. That is not the case with the extremists. When have we ever heard a call for peace from those who attacked us?
Irene September 10, 2011 at 12:25 PM
Well said Jeanne. Incidentally, during the week leading up to 9/11, how did the WI school district memorialize with the school children? Seaford High School has a big memorial out in front, the flags standing on the front lawn give me chills as I drive past. So beautiful! So comforting, so patriotic! I am sure those students will be taught to NEVER FORGET!
Jeanne September 10, 2011 at 07:55 PM
Irene, I've seen several schools, including KP and Commack proudly displaying dozens, and in some cases hundreds of flags and it is a wonderful sight! I guess the nut jobs who call our flag offensive haven't made it to this area yet...but I worry it's only a matter of time. I think there are other occasions that are worthy of such a beautiful display. 9-11 wasn't the only day we lost American lives in the name of freedom, and being patriotic is nothing we should be ashamed of.


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