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Students complete service projects

August 29, 2023

Inspiring Good Deeds: A Teacher’s Guide to Using 9/11 Day of Service Lesson Plans Across Grade Levels

9/11 Day has created a series of thoughtful, easy-to-use lesson plans that can be used in classrooms from pre-K through high school.

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By Nora and Joe Perreault

As we dive headlong into a new school year, we all want to get off on the right foot.  Whether it’s establishing strong routines, making meaningful connections, or setting the tone with that lesson, the first few days and weeks of the school year can truly impact the rest of the year.

One way to do all three (create routines, make connections and deliver a memorable lesson) is to look to the 9/11 National Day of Service and Remembrance, also known as 9/11 Day.  While it may not be appropriate at all grade levels to get into the nitty-gritty of what happened on that tragic day 22 years ago, all teachers can share the mission of 9/11 Day to turn the anniversary into a day of doing good.

The 9/11 Day of Service was inspired by the spirit of unity that arose in our country in the days and weeks following the events of Sept. 11, 2001. It was started by a small group of individuals who lost loved ones on that fateful day, and whose goal was to transform the anniversary from one of tragedy, to one of profound positive impact. In 2009, Sept. 11 became the second federally recognized “National Day of Service” in the United States (along with Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday) when it was established by the U.S. Congress and signed into law by President Obama. Now 9/11 Day is the largest annual day of service in the country, with more than 30 million people engaging in service, good deeds and acts of kindness each year. 

As educators, we want to think about how these ideals of spreading kindness, serving those in need, and developing a sense of unity can be incorporated into the classroom. 9/11 Day has created a series of thoughtful, easy-to-use lesson plans that can be used in classrooms from pre-K through high school.  Each lesson focuses on different domains of the CASEL SEL framework and connects with both Common Core standards and the C3 Framework for Social Studies. Below, we’ll briefly summarize the basics of these lessons. We also have a teacher’s guide on Share My Lesson. An important note: Though each of the five preK-12 lessons builds on the one before, they can also be shared individually.

Students completing a service project

Lesson 1: Good Deeds

The first of the 9/11 Day lessons focuses on self-awareness and encourages students to think about what good deeds are and then to consider times when they have seen, given or experienced kindness. This earliest lesson provides great support for teachers and students as it leans into collaborative activities.

Lesson 2: Gratitude

The second 9/11 Day lesson focuses on gratitude through the lens of social awareness. Students are encouraged to deepen their understanding of gratitude at the beginning of the lesson and then to express their gratitude by writing a letter. This lesson also offers a great deal of support as it relies heavily on group work.

Lesson 3: Learning About 9/11 Day

The third 9/11 Day lesson encourages students to consider relationship skills as they learn about the events of Sept. 11, 2001, in an age-appropriate manner. The primary (preK-2) lesson focuses solely on exploring the idea of service and ways in which people can serve one another. The high school lesson, on the other hand, asks students to share their understanding of the events of Sept. 11, 2001, and then relies on resources from 9/11 Day to help round out their understanding of the day.

The lesson asks students to reflect upon the ideas of unity and empathy as they consider different relationships in their lives, from their relationships with people who perform acts of service, to their relationships with people who are “different” from them.

Lesson 4: Class Service Project

The previous three lessons begin to coalesce as students practice the responsible decision-making competency to brainstorm, discuss and agree upon a class service project.  Choosing and participating in a class project serves as a springboard for students to ultimately complete an independent service project in the final lesson.

Lesson 5: Personal Service Project

The final 9/11 Day lesson asks students to focus on the self-management competency of the CASEL SEL framework. Now that they understand good deeds, gratitude and the idea of service, students will independently choose, plan and carry out a service project that is personally meaningful.

Lessons culminate with the “#IWillFor911Day” Good Deed Pledge activity, which—for those with limited classroom time—can also be run independently. The full suite of free 9/11 Day lesson plans and classroom tools can be found at 911day.org/teachers

9/11 Day and Flip are also offering a special live event on 9/11 for students of all ages. Host Jenna Bush Hager will guide students through a conversation about how 9/11 became a day of service, and how they can make a difference by performing their own good deeds in honor of the day. Get more information, and register your classroom to participate here.

About the Authors

Nora Perreault is a special education teacher in Connecticut.  Her post-secondary education focused on Autism Spectrum Disorder and her work experience has enabled her to gain extensive knowledge in foundational reading instruction.  She has more than 14 years of experience working in elementary and middle schools. 

Joe Perreault is a library media specialist in Connecticut.  Before that, he was a classroom teacher and technology integration specialist.  He has also worked for 9/11 Day as an educational consultant, helping to craft lesson plans and other teacher tools.

Both Nora and Joe love spending time, preferably outdoors, with their three kids.  When Joe doesn’t have his nose in a book, he can be found playing or coaching lacrosse.

9/11 Lesson Plans and Resources

From examining the events of 9/11, to discussing American values, and connecting 9/11 to the Constitution, this list of resources has several options for teachers to cover the topics surrounding 9-11-2001.

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9/11 Day

Since 2001, 9/11 Day has grown to become the nation’s largest annual day of charitable engagement, with more than 15 million Americans, and others around the world, taking time out each September 11 to volunteer, support charities, and engage in other good deeds.To learn more about 9/11 Day and acce

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