Each year, on September 11th, we are reminded of one of the most tragic days in our nation’s history. An important part of the legacy of 9/11 was the spirited and selfless response of nearly 100,000 Americans, who went to work with a common mission, and together, helped the nation heal.
The Stony Brook WTC Wellness Program has collected over 350 oral histories from these responders for the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress and developed a variety of teaching materials to bring these stories into the classroom, including an award-winning 9-lesson high school unit.
Teaching the next generation how to understand the sociopolitical, psychological and cultural repercussions is important to honor the people who were there. Furthermore, teaching 9/11 through first person narratives in schools shapes the way it is remembered, and helps develop the citizens who will shape the policies and values of our city, and the country, in the future.
This unit uses a text, “We’re Not Leaving”, by Benjamin J. Luft, to explore first hand narratives and search for common themes within the stories. The 9/11 responder stories give insight into the minds of those who experienced 9/11 directly. Some seek to find or make meaning. Many raise questions about the nature of heroism, resilience, retribution, guilt, hope, camaraderie, civic duty, and politics. With respect to the fact that some questions have no answers, these lessons are designed to get students to ask questions and analyze sources as empathetic historians. Students are also asked to analyze key speeches, explore the Patriot Act, debate the Zadroga Bill for first responder healthcare and think about the best approach to responding to terrorism internationally. Additionally, students will spend time evaluating ideas about what terrorism is, how these events have affected their lives, and how to reach out to the witnesses in their own lives to learn about 9/11.
Included with this lesson set are teaching materials, including the book, “We’re Not Leaving: 9/11 Responders Tell their Stories of Courage, Sacrifice, and Renewal”, and a full-length feature documentary, “9/11: An American Requiem”, which debuted at the Stony Brook Film Festival in 2011.
Content Area: Social Studies
Intro Lesson/Inquiry Based Learning Timeline and overview of major events through an inquiry based activity.
Lesson 1 Jig-saw read and thematic analysis: Independent reading and group analysis of common themes in first-person narratives
Lesson 2 What is a Terrorist? Class definition of terrorism and situational analysis: Sample situations and the question, “Is it Terrorism?”
Lesson 3 Key Quotes and Questions: Marking up the text and addressing specific topics mentioned in the text
Lesson 4 Comparing and Contrasting 9/11 and Pearl Harbor: How these attacks on American soil sparked cultural backlashes Handout
Lesson 5 Agree/Disagree, Class Debate Activity: Using debatable statements to build an argument Handout
Lesson 6 Argument Paper, Patriot Act: Does the Patriot Act violate civil liberties? Students use 2 sources to create a source based argument.
Lesson 7 Argument Paper: What is the government’s responsibility to first responders?
Lesson 8 Argument Paper: What should be America’s foreign policy towards terrorism? Handout (Sources)
Lesson 9 Interview an adult: Where were you on 9/11? Creating narrative and class publishing event