September 9, 2021

Helping Students Remember 9/11, Twenty Years Later

As the 20th anniversary of 9/11 quickly approaches, we have the opportunity to address the historic events of that day respectfully as we share stories and help students learn from the tragic day in 2001. Today, nearly one-third of U.S citizens are under the age of 25, with little or no first-hand memories of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.  In fact, all students in K-12 schools today were not alive at the time. With that in mind, here are helpful resources and considerations as you prepare for discussions about September 11th. 

Approaching 9/11 as a historical event

Superintendent Lorna Lewis of Malverne, NY notes, “To the students in our school, 9/11 is simply history. It is important for us to recall for [students] the story of heroism that arose from that day.” Consider having students examine artifacts from the events that unfolded that day and observe first-hand accounts from civilians and first-responders. Establishing a timeline for students promotes a more meaningful understanding of what happened and how the events developed. These interactive timelines from the National September 11 Memorial and Museum provide an engaging opportunity for students to closely analyze the events of that day and the resulting recovery efforts. 

Emphasize the unity and resiliency 

While this day is recognized as one of America’s most tragic in recent history, it’s essential that we highlight the courage, heroism, and solidarity displayed by Americans across the country. The Social Institute is releasing a new #WinAtSocial LIVE Lesson that empowers educators to open an informative conversation with students about 9/11 while elevating these admirable characteristics demonstrated by a wide variety of U.S. citizens. This lesson features Eyepop Productions’ Boatlift.  This short-film depicts the tremendous effort of local boaters, ferry captains, and the U.S. Coast Guard who all reacted in record-breaking fashion to evacuate and rescue civilians trapped in lower Manhattan. Students are given opportunities to reflect in a meaningful way upon the heroic actions of these citizens, how they can apply these inspiring traits to their own lives, and what your school can do to make a positive difference in the world today.  

Give students plenty of space to ask questions

While many details of 9/11 are heart-wrenching, gruesome, and better left to the discretion of your students’ families and guardians, most of what students are wondering can elicit a rich, impactful discussion. To help guide some of this inquiry-based discourse, here are some frequently asked questions about 9/11

Other resources to consider: 

Let’s come together and encourage healthy discussion this September.