Professors Write Nation’s First Plan For Teaching Kids About 9/11

A new program designed to teach students in America's middle and high schools about the 9/11 attacks was designed by two Queens College professors.
Next year will be the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. While the tragic day has been deeply engraved in the minds of many Americans, students in middle and high school are too young to have strong memories of it.

Last year, World Trade Center United Family Group, the largest of the 9/11 community organizations, unveiled the September 11th Education Program, a national interdisciplinary curriculum designed to teach those students about the attacks. The 9/11 curriculum, the first comprehensive educational plan of its kind in the nation, was written by Jack Zevin and Michael Krasner, professors at the Taft Institute for Government at Queens College.

"The city hasn't honored the victims the way it should, so the families liked the idea of a curriculum memorializing the attacks," says Zevin, who was contacted by the group.

"The curriculum is much more vibrant than a statue, and it needs to be taught because the event is slipping away from our memory."

The curriculum consists of seven lessons, covering topics that range from the post 9/11 recovery process to mapping terrorist activity with Google Earth. It is accompanied by two DVDs. It's based on archival footage and more than 80 interviews with survivors, family members of victims and government leaders. Michael Hutchison, a social studies teacher at a high school in Vincennes, Ind., who was chosen to help roll out the curriculum last September, taught a lesson on "Creating Timelines and Using Personal Narratives."

"The kids learned a great deal from the curriculum and were greatly engaged by the lesson," says Hutchison, who plans to teach more lessons this year. "I'm sure it will be an important part of the social studies curriculum for some time to come."

Nearly 1,300 teachers have downloaded the free portion of the curriculum from, and over 100 teachers have bought the entire curriculum through the Social Studies School Service, which publishes and distributes the materials.

Zevin says, teaching about 9/11 from a textbook doesn't do it justice. "Reducing something that's complicated and dramatic to three paragraphs takes the blood out of it," says Zevin, who used a Holocaust curriculum as a model for the 9/11 project. "It's difficult to bring something alive in one page."