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Ten days before 10th anniversary, city launches 9/11 curriculum

As the city prepares to observe the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that took place on Sept. 11, 2001, the Department of Education is making curriculum materials — and grief counseling — available to teachers.

“As educators and parents of children who grew up in the years before and after 9/11, we have a responsibility to help them learn that the attacks of 9/11 were an attack on all New Yorkers, our nation as a whole, our freedoms, and our way of life,” Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott wrote in an email to teachers today announcing the new materials.

High school seniors had just started second grade on 9/11, and most city students have “little or no recollection” of the day, Walcott noted in the letter to teachers. That’s one reason why a team of teachers and administrators at the DOE worked with the National September 11 Memorial and Museum, scheduled to open next year, to develop a collection of 9/11-themed lesson plans. Those plans went online today.

The lesson plans are meant to be used in social studies, history, English, and art classes across all grade levels. The 10 to 20 lessons for each grade level are divided across the themes of “historical impact,” “community and conflict,” “heroes and service,” and “memory and memorialization.”

Children in kindergarten through second grade might learn about bravery and examine mementos, now in the museum’s permanent collection, that children sent to firefighters after 9/11. Middle schoolers might analyze memorial songs released shortly after 9/11. And a high school class might study the recent history of Islamist extremism or develop museum exhibitions of their own. Each lesson is connected to new Common Core curriculum standards being rolled out this year.

The department is also planning to offer counseling services to teachers, staff, and students who need them, Walcott said.

Walcott’s letter to teachers is below.

Dear Colleagues,

September 11, 2011 will mark the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. On that day, our nation will honor those killed ten years ago, as well as the brave men and women who risked and sacrificed their lives to save them. The ceremony in New York City, where 2,753 people were killed on 9/11, will be attended by President Barack Obama, former President George W. Bush, thousands of families who lost loved ones, rescue workers, and other dignitaries.

As we plan for the opening of school on September 8th, it is important that you are prepared to engage students in a meaningful discussion about the events of 9/11. For those of us who lost someone close that day or otherwise experienced it, thinking and talking about 9/11 may still evoke strong emotions. Many of your students, however, will have little or no recollection of the event itself. To help you and your staff engage in lessons about the attacks that are both meaningful and academically enriching, we have partnered with the National September 11 Memorial & Museum to create a curriculum for students in grades K-12.

The lesson plans are divided into four themes: Historical Impact, Community & Conflict, Heroes & Service, and Memory & Memorialization. Each lesson approaches its theme in a different way, drawing upon artifacts and oral histories from the collection of the 9/11 Memorial Museum, which is scheduled to open in September 2012. They are written for use throughout the school year and across subjects, including Social Studies, History, English Language Arts, and Art. Each lesson is also aligned with the Common Core State Standards to ensure relevance to your teaching and goals for the school year.

The brutal nature of the attacks raises difficult emotions and challenging questions. To broaden the resources at your disposal for discussing the attacks and their aftermath, we have developed a 9/11 FAQ, a basic primer on the history of the World Trade Center and the Twin Towers, the 9/11 attacks and their perpetrators, and the rebuilding of the World Trade Center site. Information will be posted online about counseling resources available to you to support students and staff who may need assistance on this special anniversary, especially those who were directly affected either by the attacks or the rescue and recovery efforts.

These materials can be downloaded for classroom use from the 9/11 Memorial. The DOE has also developed a 9/11 Resource page, with links to the 9/11 Memorial, as well as additional instructional resources and professional development opportunities for educators.

We must never forget those who lost their lives and the heroism of our first responders on that terrible day. As educators and parents of children who grew up in the years before and after 9/11, we have a responsibility to help them learn that the attacks of 9/11 were an attack on all New Yorkers, our nation as a whole, our freedoms, and our way of life. I hope that you review these resources and urge your teachers to make use of them in the classroom.

Dennis M. Walcott

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