5. Thank a Hero
Start a discussion about heroes. Ask: What makes a real-life hero? What are their character traits? Who are your heroes? Why?
Tell students that on 9/11 many people acted heroically, from firefighters to police officers to office workers and passersby. They helped to save people's lives. Brainstorm with your class a list of people—firefighters, police officers, EMTs, doctors, nurses, and crossing guards, for example—who keep the community safe. Then have students think of a good way to thank them. They may want to write a thank-you letter, poem, or rap. (Here's a video lesson on how to write a rap). Or they may want to design a digital show of appreciation using Tinkercad, Sketchbook, or another free art app.
Older elementary students can research individuals who acted heroically during the attacks of September 11, 2001. They might choose one of the following: Firefighter John "Jay" Jonas, Port Authority officer David Lim, EMT Mercedes Rivera, NYPD chief Terri Tobin, or tax auditor Rose Riso, who worked in the south tower of the World Trade Center. Challenge students to work in pairs or groups to create a video spotlighting the person's heroism.
6. Design a Tribute
Tell students that on September 11, 2021, a ceremony will take place at each 9/11 site to remember the victims. On September 10, 40 lanterns will be lit in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, to honor the 40 passengers and crew members who died when one of the hijacked planes crashed in a field there. At the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., 184 memorial benches have been built, one for each victim of the attacks. The benches are organized in a timeline of the victims' ages, from the youngest, 3-year-old Dana Falkenberg, to the oldest, 71-year-old John Yamnicky. In a ceremony in New York City, the names of all 2,983 people killed on 9/11 will be read aloud and two beams of light symbolizing the Twin Towers will shine four miles into the sky above Manhattan from dusk on September 11 to dawn on September 12.
Point out that the tributes are symbolic. The lanterns and the benches represent the passengers and crew who were on the planes that crashed in Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C. The two beams of light represent the Twin Towers. Remind them that symbols may already be familiar to them. Ask: What is a symbol for love? (heart) What is a symbol for hope? (rainbow) What is a symbol for peace? (dove, peace symbol)
Challenge students to create their own symbolic tribute to the victims of 9/11. Ask: What do you wish for those affected by 9/11? Make a list of student responses. Students might say peace, hope, happiness, or resilience. Then challenge them to come up with a way to represent that wish in a three-dimensional artwork. Students might use clay or found objects like stones, shells, newspaper clippings, photographs, fabric, and the like.
Share Your 9/11 Lesson Plans
How do you teach the events of September 11 in your elementary classroom? Do you have sensitive ways of addressing the attacks with young students? We’d love to hear your ideas. Share your 9/11 lesson plans with us on Twitter (@HMHCo) or email us at Shaped@hmhco.com.
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