- The Washington Times - Friday, September 6, 2002

Area schools will host luncheons, plant trees and observe moments of silence to mark the anniversary of September 11. But how the attacks are handled in the classroom Wednesday and the rest of the school year largely will be up to the teachers.
Prince George's and Montgomery counties are suggesting teachers visit the Internet for resources they can use for guidance during discussions of the attacks with students.
The District will teach students about peace and a global perspective to make them aware that the United States is "part of a larger world community, and our destinies as Americans are interconnected."
Teachers are instructed to focus "not only on promoting peace and tolerance in our own schools and communities, but in the world at large," say pamphlets distributed by the school system. Discussions for high school students could cover issues such as war and peace on the international stage, while those at elementary schools may look at adults in their community who maintain a peaceful world for them, like teachers, police, firefighters and paramedics.
Fairfax is not asking teachers to create a special curriculum but instead is encouraging regular course work Wednesday.
Regardless, social studies educators say they expect to have several discussions with their students about the attacks.
"Children are going to say, 'How is this going to impact me, my community, my family?'" said Kurt Waters, social studies chairman at Centreville High School.
Fairfax County, the largest school district in the region, last week held a training session for social studies teachers on how to deal with questions about the violence and the terror. Hundreds of educators packed an auditorium at Lake Braddock Secondary to listen to speakers from area universities and schools.
One called for making the day a celebration of freedom. Another stressed the need to avoid the coupling of Islam with terrorism. Teachers also were directed to a Web site, www.911digitalarchive.org, that compiled resources on September 11, including stories from eyewitnesses and photographs.
Teachers said later they were pleased that the school district was leaving it up to them to tailor the lesson plans based on their classrooms' needs.
"I like that I wasn't given any one answer here, that I was given different resources so I could put them together in the best mix for my classroom and create lessons around September 11," Mr. Waters said.
In the District, schools will develop activities based on September 11 throughout the year, including essay and poster contests, said Sally Schwartz, director of international programs for the city's schools. On Wednesday, students at each school will develop projects to promote world peace.
"We really are committed to making this day a living memorial," she said.
In Prince George's County, educators are creating suggested lesson plans in which teachers can discuss trauma and reactions to trauma, as well as lead classroom discussions about the attacks. They also will engage students in research projects, said Dorothy Harrison, community relations specialist for the school system.
But she stressed the need to provide only facts. "It is not for us to give opinions. We have to keep our feelings out of this," she said.
Educators say they owe it to their students to connect the events leading up to the attack when talking about the attacks, because children tend to see big events like these in isolation.
"September 11 will be a central event in shaping this generation's worldview when they assume power," said James Morris, a history teacher at West Springfield High in Fairfax County. "Some want us to avoid the issue altogether, but we have no options. To avoid 9/11 is to shirk our responsibilities as educators."
Students have responded to September 11 intellectually and have awakened to the world around them, say some teachers.
"Before, students had a sense of being sheltered," said eighth-grade civics teacher Rob Paine of Hayfield Secondary in Alexandria. "But they realized after September 11 that we have as much of a stake in geopolitical events as anyone else in the world."
He added, "There is now a heightened interest in civics. They pay more attention in class."
The National Education Association, the country's largest teachers union, had provided a list of lesson plans on its Web site that instructed teachers not to "suggest that any group is responsible" for the attacks and urged educators to "discuss historical instances of American intolerance."
Officials with the American Federation of Teachers and some of its state affiliates, however, immediately distanced themselves from the NEA document.
The NEA has since removed the lesson plans from its Web site, which was not included on a list of suggested resources given by area schools to The Washington Times.
Beyond what is being taught on Wednesday, schools will honor those who lost their lives in the attack. In most cases, the commemorations will be subdued; administrators say they do not want to unnecessarily upset students.
In Fairfax, the principal at every school will read a message about the attacks before students observe the moment of silence mandated by a law passed by the General Assembly in 2000.
The message asks students to take time to remember those who died and survived the attacks and those who acted so bravely on that day. It adds: "We might also think of the contribution each of us can make to our nation and to peace throughout the world."
Schools in Prince George's County will also observe a moment of silence to remember the victims and the heroes who lost their lives that day.
Arlington County schools will leave it up to principals to handle the day as they see fit. The central office has suggested words for a statement the principals could read before the moment of silence if they choose, according to a county schools spokeswoman.
Students at Hoffman-Boston Elementary, whose principal Pat Hymel lost her husband in the attack and which is less than a mile from the Pentagon, will plant a tree.
Judy Madden, guidance director for Montgomery County schools, said they were also encouraging schools to plan the day for themselves, rather than dictating what to do.
"We are leaving it up to individual schools to make their plans, depending on their developmental needs and the experience of the youngsters," she said.
The District will observe three days of remembrance, starting with a moment of silence at all schools on September 11 and a day of teaching devoted both to promoting peace and to eliminating racism and intolerance.
At three D.C. schools, the celebrations will take on special meaning: Leckie and Ketcham elementary schools and Backus Middle School all lost a student and a teacher in the attacks.
Students Rodney Dickens, Bernard Brown and Asia Cottom, as well as teachers Hilda Taylor, James Debeuneure and Sarah Clark were among those on board American Airlines Flight 77, which crashed into the Pentagon.
On Sept. 12, Leckie Elementary will invite students who wrote to them from Michigan, Virginia and Canada after the attacks to visit for the day. Ketcham Elementary will host a luncheon for those who gave the school a helping hand in the aftermath, and students at Backus Middle School are tentatively scheduled to conduct a teleconference with students in Japan.
The District will also open an exhibit at the Sumner School and Museum in Northwest, showcasing gifts given to the city's schools by people around the world after the attacks.
Because schools in the area have a diverse student population, it is all the more important to base lessons on history, teachers said.
Last year, students became more serious and tried to come together as Americans, Mr. Waters said.
"There is going to be a seriousness in the pursuit of happiness after September 11," he said.
And teachers realize that it is not a lesson that will end when the final bell rings on Wednesday.
"I certainly think the teaching of September 11 is not something we'll relegate to one day. It is part of our history and sociology and needs to be woven into the curriculum," Mr. Morris said.


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