Teaching teens about 9/11

9/11 as a history lesson

KENMORE, N.Y. -- As we remember and reflect on the attacks of September 11th now 15 years later, we are looking at it from the perspective of teenagers who weren't alive when it happened.

Social studies teachers are helping kids learn about 9/11 as a historic event instead of something they remember.

Aria Elling was born in 2001. On 9/11, this Kenmore West sophomore was just a couple of months old.

"A few days before 9/11, I had a house fire in my house when I was just a baby. So my mom said that I was at the doctor, and the people who were restoring my house, they all just kind of like gathered around with the TV and witnessed what was going on together and were all just in awe," says Elling.

Elling has learned about 9/11 from watching documentaries with her family. She will probably talk about it in class on Monday and next year when she's a junior and takes U.S. History.

Most of this year's incoming high school freshmen weren't born yet in 2001.

"Even our upperclassmen, juniors, and seniors still see 9/11 as a page out of the history books," says Kenmore West social studies teacher Peter Stuhlmiller.

Stuhlmiller says even though teens have no memory of 9/11, they know how it impacted our political culture, our economy, and our social well being.

"They've grown up in a post-9/11 world, so the image of the towers is iconic. They've seen it," he says. "Even though it's historical in one sense, they're able to pick up on the cultural cues that say that the event has had a huge emotional, political, and social impact, and they're aware of it. They're savvy. They understand it."

In the classroom, Stuhlmiller says social studies teachers try to find connections to what kids experience in life now as a result of the terror attacks to teach them about how 9/11 impacts our daily lives.

"Students who are traveling with their families and going through the airports realize what TSA is all about. They've gone through the security at the boarding gates, they understand that, but they have no recollection of what it was like when you could freely travel up to the gates and fly. Why do we have these additional levels of security? What's the meaning behind that? So these are real world experiences that kids can trace back to an event like 9/11 and see the connection," he says.

Stuhlmiller says the kids want to talk about it, they're mature about it, and he thinks it is important to have open and honest conversations about 9/11.


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