The Bernards Township school district is planning a moment of silence in recognition of the significance of 9/11 for both the nation and a community where 20 residents were killed in the 2001 terrorist attacks, following the Board of Education's direction last year that the anniversary should be noted in township schools.
Other lessons are being planned at different grade levels throughout the school system.
Parents approached the Board of Education last September with the request that the event be noted in future years, after expressing concern that it had passed without a coordinated effort in the schools to address the date last year.
Approaching the Board of Education a few weeks after last Sept. 11, parent Stacy Lettie said the event "shapes all aspects of their lives" she said of students and township residents. Later during the meeting, board members informally agreed they would like to see a moment of silence instituted in Bernards Schools on Sept. 11 in future years.
Sept. 11, 2001 was also a day that took the lives of about 20 Bernards Township residents, depending on how residency was counted. This year's seniors, the class of 2014, were beginning kindergarten at the time of the terrorist attacks in New York City.
Bernards Township Schools Superintendent Nick Markarian noted in a special email sent home to parents that this year, Sept. 11 occurs during the first week of school.
"I wanted to take this opportunity to let you know of our plans to recognize 9/11," the superintendent said in the email.
The William Annin Middle School and Ridge High School will hold a moment of silence "in recognition of the significance of the day for our community and nation," Markarian wrote to parents.
Age appropriate activities through social studies curriculum
At the middle school and at the elementary schools, the teachers will utilize appropriate activities as part of the social studies curriculum and in support of our character education programs, the email said.
Markarian said the lessons at the kindergarten through grade 8 level do not all specifically mention 9/11 — "the intent is to deal with concepts related to the event, such as heroism."
At the high school, he said, the social studies department will address the actual event of 9/11 specifically to meet the curricular goals. Those with further questions can contact Kristin Fox, Social Studies Supervisor, at email@example.com.
The district's on-course online social studies page states that, "Because September 11 occurs so close to the opening of school, and is a sensitive topic in our community, we want to take this opportunity to inform you of our plans to recognize 9/11 this year."
"Age appropriate" activities in the elementary and middle school grades will include "Heroes in our Everyday Lives," (grade 2) and, in the eighth grade, a discussion of random acts of kindness, and how people deal with tragedy and grief, especially when they are national events.
"The classroom teachers in Grades K-8 will incorporate an age-appropriate activity as part of the social studies curriculum and in support of our character education programs," according to the social studies webpage.
The class activities that do not specifically mention 9/11, will address concepts related to the event and its aftermath, such as acts of kindness and heroes.
Activites for 9/11 activities to be reviewed each year
Each year, these lessons will be reviewed and revised as appropriate, the webpage says.
Social studies teachers in grades 9 to 12 will explore both address the event itself and the concepts related to 9/11 throughout the curriculum and will address them as they meaningfully support the curricular goals of each course in Ridge's program, according to the social studies department.
Many of the lessons outlined were developed using the curricular materials developed by The 4 Action Initiative, a collaboration of Families of September 11, Liberty Science Center and the New Jersey Commission on Holocaust Education, the web page said. The mission of the group has been to educate students about global security and the legacy of September 11.
The full curriculum can be found HERE.
Last year, by not taking a full approach to dealing with 9/11, "We are missing an incredible opportunity to teach our children," Lettie said. She said her son last year reported that his Ridge High School Social Studies teacher had spent just a few minutes talking about the World Trade Center's destruction, an event that she said has changed students' lives in Bernards Township.
Last year, Markarian said that on the 11th anniversary following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attack, the district's Social Studies Supervisor had provided age-appropriate materials on the subject to all teachers. He said that teaching of the material was not mandated last year, but many did participate.
For example, to honor of September 11 Day of Service, William Annin Middle School students last year showed a generous and caring spirit in and outside of school from September 6 to 13, according to an earlier announcement by Deirdre Bachler, Spanish teacher at the middle school. The students had been invited to collect animal food, toys and blankets for local animal shelters, with some also choosing to write letters to soldiers abroad, she said.