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Teaching the 9/11 Story

By Annie Gilbertson | Published 08 Sep 2011 03:05pm | comments
Artesia Trader draws her own interpretation of the events 10 years ago.


With the anniversary of 9/11 days away, how do Mississippi educators teach a moment in history they lived through? MPB's Education Reporter, Annie Gilbertson, talks to Mississippi students and teachers at Van Winkle Elementary School in Jackson to find out how to teach a narrative too fresh for most history books.

Ms. Kimberly Turner's third grade class pledges allegiance every morning, but comprehending the unity Americans felt in the fall 2001 is a tougher task. These 8-year old students weren't alive when the towers fell, so lesson one is what happened.

Trader: “People changed because highjackers got on a plane and took over the plane and crashed it between two twin towers. The big ones that weren’t supposed to fall.”

Artesia Trader got the gist of the events.  It was scary, but her class had visits from two heroes, a firefighter and a soldier.  The soldier happens to be their teacher's husband which helps make the story more personal in the eyes of students, but also complicates things.

Turner: Because I said Mr. Turner is fighting bad guys that caused 9/11.  And to them, they are like ‘why did the highjackers do that to the plane? Why did they want to do that?’ And we don’t know the why questions per se.”

And Turner says it’s tough to teach children what adults may not fully understand themselves. Teachers at Van Winkle want students to draw their own conclusions. 

Ms. Anne Land is constructing a memorial quilt with her third graders.  Each student drew their own patch representing the loss and hope they interpret as being an important part to 9/11.  David Cooper's patch is the only one in the class without a New York scene. Instead, he connects the tragedy to something closer to home.

Cooper: “A picture of a hurricane, because it was scary. It was a disaster.  It shows that no matter what happens people are always there to overcome it.”

Ten years out, yet still so fresh in most American's minds, classroom interpretations of 9/11 are very much in flux.  It still strikes too close to home. Perhaps these students will be the generation that begins tosee 9-11  as a historical event - rather than feel it as as a palpable, emotional part of life.

From the Southern Education Desk, for MPB News, I'm Annie Gilbertson.


Artesia Trader draws her own interpretation of the events 10 years ago.



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