BELTSVILLE, Md. – On the eighth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, teachers here at Calverton Elementary School engaged students in creative projects and class discussions to commemorate an event that most were too young to remember.
Teachers here say that, given the student body’s diverse racial background, it’s important to share feelings about an event that caused tension between different religions and ethnicities, according to language arts teacher Constance Wood.
“We have so many countries here, we’re like a mini-United Nations,” said Wood. “They don’t look at each other any differently because” that’s what they’re accustomed to.
In Matthew Hartman’s fourth-grade class, students listened to their teacher’s experience of seeing the Twin Towers collapse from his New York office window. Then they wrote haiku poetry about Sept. 11 and looked at images from a book on a projection screen.
“The fact that their teacher, who they respect very much, was there, that will mean a lot to them,” said Principal Mary Tschudy.
Wood helped Hartman teach the class, going through the haiku on a projector. As Wood read them aloud, she started to cry.
“I didn’t mean to do that,” Wood explained. She quickly pulled herself together.
Wood and Hartman walked through the class helping students with their haiku, clapping out the five-seven-five syllable pattern of the three-line poems.
“Why did this happen?/A very sad tragedy/So many lives lost?” wrote D’Angela Pierre, 9.
“Early in the day/The two towers burned down/Snapshot
memory,” wrote Sean Harris, 8.
Students who needed help were partnered with a classmate who had already finished writing. Cidnee Joseph, 10, helped Milto Tasissa, 9, with her last line.
“Many people died,” Milto said slowly, holding out a finger with each syllable. “Oh, that would be good!” she said, and wrote it down.
When students submitted their poems, they looked at
pictures from a book titled “New York September 11” on the projector. As Hartman explained each image, several questions arose.
“Did the Statue of Liberty collapse too?” asked Angela
“No, it didn’t,” Hartman answered, and briefly told
the class about Ellis Island.
“Did the terrorists just attack the Twin Towers because they had a whole lot of people in there?” asked Eric Arroyo, 10.
Hartman tried to explain the World Trade Center’s importance. “Have you all heard of the word ‘landmark’ before?” he asked, and several students raised their hands.
“How did the terrorists get in the plane?” wondered Cidnee Joseph, 10. “And were there people on the plane?”
“There were a lot of people on the planes,” answered Hartman.
One student’s grandfather was in the World Trade Center building when it was attacked, but made it out safely. The student declined to talk about his experience.
Several other classes at Calverton were also observing the anniversary, sometimes referred to as Patriot Day. In Matthew Reif’s fifth-grade class, students broke into small groups to discuss a news article and share drawings of how they think the Sept. 11 memorial should look.
“I wanted (students) to artistically share their feelings,” said Reif, who opted not to lecture about the event.
In Jhanna Levin’s fourth- grade class, students created a word web of vocabulary related to Sept. 11 and discussed definitions of words like “terrorist,” “fear,” and “liberty.”