In the Spring of 2001, fourth graders at Nottingham Elementary in Arlington, VA made an extraordinary history time line mural to celebrate their county's Bicentennial. It includes many famous people and nationally known historic sites - including the Pentagon.

After the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks, stories of heroism by teachers in both Arlington and New York equaled those of firemen and police. We created this space on ROOTS & ROUTES to gather their letters of insight and advice.

As each anniversery of 9/11 approaches, teachers must deal again with the aftermath of personal loss and terrible images and memories. Indeed, all children have shared to some degree in the tragedy and the trauma; and all teachers continue to look for ways to help their students understand and cope with a new reality. Many are using images, music, words, and history to comfort and console. See our recently updated list of links below.


Daena Kluegel is a Montessori teacher with 27 years experience as an educator. Daena teaches three, four and five year olds in the North Arlington public schools. Although not near the Pentagon, parents work there. Luckily, all got out safely. However, Daena writes, "The Event has permeated life, in the news and in most discussions." Here is her letter:

I am so proud of our school. The staff and parents were so strong and supportive on Tuesday. I talked to my class the next school day (no class on Wed.) They were afraid and confused. I told them I felt that also but that I knew we would be safe in school and at home and that our government was working to make sure of that. (I sure pray that I am right.)
I told them that I did not understand "BAD Guys" who hate us enough to hurt us when they do not even know us. Then we talked about Martin Luther King. We learned a song about him and how he promoted peace. We had lots of discussions for the rest of the week. We made paper peace doves with each kid's peace wish written on it to put on the bulletin board. Wishes included,"No more wars and killing" and "It should be safe for kids and dogs". (OOOh I tried not to melt on that!) I am stressing tolerance with them, different is not bad just different! We are a diverse class and most kids have been with me for 1 or 2 years so there is a strong sense of community. But, make no mistake, they are watching us, we are their models!
We have been following up with discussions about the terrorist attacks each day, just briefly, and singing our song about peace and harmony that MLK preached*. Friday morning as we were working in class, I helped a child label some shapes we have; the metal insets. He had chosen the pentagon. I said the name as I wrote it. Jose was doing a puzzle nearby and looked up. "The pentagon is a building right here, a plane flew into it and all the people got burned up." He looked right at me. I gulped and said "that is right and it is very sad to remember, Jose. We are safe here and the government is working to keep us safe and for that to never happen again." I said a silent prayer that what I said was correct, God Help Us! So we will continue to be vigilant and to reassure our children of our love and protection. This is very hard!
This week, when I met with the parents of these children for Back to School Night, the question was asked, "What did you tell them?" I briefly told them what I had said. "But why not just ignore it, and go on? That is what we do at home." I hardly believe that they think the children in their homes could be unaware that something very important and sad was going on! I honestly answered that I could not do that and that I did not think they would be able to do that either. I ended up asking them to talk to their little children, to reassure them and to explain it to them, "on their level, you know your own child and what he or she is ready for..." Did I say the right thing, I wonder?

*"Freedom Freedom - Let it Ring" by Jacqueline Woodson.
(To the tune of "Twinkle, Twinkle...")
Freedom, Freedom Let it ring!
Let it ring said Dr. King
Let us live in harmony
Peace and love for you and me
Freedom, Freedom Let it ring!
Let it ring said Dr. King



On September 15 - just four days after the Pentagon and World Trade Center tragedies - the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., decided to hold our annual Festival of the Building Arts as originally planned. After much thought and discussion, we felt that the festival would be a tribute to those people who designed, engineered, built, and worked in the buildings that were destroyed or damaged by the September 11 attacks.


The Festival of the Building Arts is a free, one-day event which gives visitors the rare opportunity to observe and participate in traditional and contemporary building crafts. Participants work side-by-side with master craftspeople -- from bricklayers and blacksmiths, to ironworkers and gilders -- to discover the skills and secrets employed in the building arts. Families can watch craftspeople split logs for a cabin and build furniture from tree limbs, or participate in building a box city, stone carving, creating their own plaster casts, making artwork out of nuts and bolts, and exploring the construction equipment "petting zoo." In addition, visitors may consult with masons, roofers, faux finishers, carpenters, landscape and building architects, and professional paperhangers, among others.

This year's festival attracted nearly 3,000 visitors. It was very moving to see the children building box skyscrapers for the box city and constructing tall buildings with nuts and bolts in tool sculpture activity area. Many parents noted that the event allowed a positive place for their children to express their feelings about the tragedies. We were grateful for their comments and pleased that participants found the festival to be such an uplifting experience.

Read more about the National Building Museum's Teacher workshops and Student programs


I teach at a private school located south of 14th Street in Greenwich Village, NYC. After September 11, everyone came together to help children feel safe and comforted. Because the classroom teachers were doing so much talking with children about this, I sensed that when the children came to the art room for the 45 minute class, they wanted to do art. Routines comforted them.

With my classes of nine and ten year olds we began with a formal problem of color exploration just to warm up and get a feel for paint again. Then, instead of addressing the tragedy directly, I decided to have the children shift their focus to the correction. I asked them, "What are the ways that people help each other? And how can you show that in a painting?" I told them that I hoped they would grow to be the kind of people who can help to correct the problems of the world - and I feel they will be.

Nancy Beal
Village Community School 272 West 10 Street New York, New York 10014

Fireman Helping - Steven, age 10

  Making a Donation - Kevin, age 10   Fireman and Policemen Helping - Sofi, age 10

  Giving Blood - Natalie, age 10   Donating Clothes - Genevieve, age 10

Nancy Beal's book, The Art of Teaching Art to Children In School and at Home, written with Gloria Bley Miller, was recently published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.


  • "Reactions from Atchison, Kansas" - Student Reaction, UVille Poem - Atchison Middle School
  • "Student Reaction to the Attack" - PBS Online NewsHour Student Forum
  • Lower Manhattan Schools Cope With The Unthinkable - Education Week
  • "Wordsmiths" Teen Poetry Journal (See Vol. 44, Remember September 11, Special Edition) - New York Public Library
  • "Reflections on September 11, 2001"; by Dr. Paul DiPietro, a Dover High School teacher - Facing History and Ourselves


  • "Parents' Guide for Talking to their Children." - National Center for Children Exposed To Violence (Yale) and other links on Children and Terrorism.
  • September 11: Lessons and Resources for Classroom Teachers (recent update) - Education World
  • Schools and Crisis: Selected Resources - Education Week
  • September 11 Resource List to Help Teens, Parents, and Teachers (updated August 2002) - American Literary Association


  • "A Nation of Many Cultures."(K5) - PBS: America Responds
  • "Classroom Activities to Help Children Express Feelings." (Primary) - University of Illinois Extension


    New York's Landmark Survivors - ROOTS & ROUTES/Action
    Union Square - ROOTS & ROUTES/Action

  • Facing History Responds : Sol Gittleman's ideas on teaching comparative religions - Facing History and Ourselves
  • "Why Here, Why Us, Why Now?" Exploring 9/11 in Historical, Cultural and International Contexts - Families and Work Institute
  • "Hot Topics"(Secondary) - Evergreen State College
  • Timeline since 9/11 - on the war in Afghanistan and the terrorist attack - Albany Times-Union
  • Final Ceremony for the Rebuilt and Improved Pentagon - U.S. Military/Pentagon Phoenix Project


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