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But for Yarzabek’s cohort of early elementary-school teachers, the questions are more numerous: How much do six-year-olds, born into a post-9/11 world, know about the War on Terror? And how does one translate a violent news story into a lesson fit for first graders? On Monday, Yarzabek addressed those who were aware of the news individually. “It would be good if they went to jail for all of their lives instead of having to be killed,” Alejandro told her in one of these sessions. Another student, Ethan, recounted the events by saying he heard that the “bad man” died because he was “the one who planned exploding the twin towers.” Adwaith described a terrorist as “a really bad person who hates our country.” Yarzabek said she wanted to wait a day before discussing the news in class. She wanted to give parents time to present it to their children in their own way, and to give herself time to process it. “More of my kids will come in tomorrow with questions,” she said. “They’re not just babies -they’re curious about everything.” She remembered being ushered from her high school psychology class into a prayer service held by her Catholic school when the first plane crashed into the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. “I think about the intense emotion I felt then,” she said. “I not only want to teach the event, but tap into their emotions.” Moving forward, she might use an animated movie made by the educational website BrainPOP that explains the history of September 11th -- and was updated to reflect bin Laden’s death -using a narrated cartoon. She might assign a writing exercise about loss, ask her students to draw pictures, or hold group discussions. She’s still figuring it out. Teachers of upper grades can assume a higher level of awareness among their students. Julie Caccamise, who teaches Model United Nations and social studies electives in Washington D.C.’s Woodrow Wilson Senior High School, said she felt the event presented “a really important opportunity to give my students a chance to be open about their feelings.” She also helped her class make sense of a seemingly infinite trove of sources of information. Students in Caccamise’s class, including senior Nathan Kohrman, 18, grew up near the site of the September 11th attack on the Pentagon and witnessed the aftermath firsthand. “It was a Berlin Wall moment, a pivotal moment that people don’t see happen in their lifetimes,” Kohrman said. He sat as Caccamise offered a forum for mulling over the ramifications of bin Laden’s death. Caccamise contextualized the events that shaped the city her students grew up in. She then allowed her students to ask questions of their teacher and each other. Students pondered whether or not bin Laden should have been taken into custody, rather than killed, and discussed the value of life. Caccamise said she was surprised by her students’ “depth of awareness.” Meanwhile, in Portland, Ore., far from Ground Zero, Dan Anderson gave both his modern world history and his philosophy, ethics, and comparative religion classes at Grant High School a

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May 2011  
May 2011  

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