Remembering 9/11, Celebrating 9/14

Each year, my school celebrates a special, yet under-acknowledged anniversary in our country’s history. September 14, 1814 was the date when Francis Scott Key wrote the poem that became our National Anthem while witnessing the battle at Fort McHenry.  Three years ago, I approached my principal and colleagues with the idea of bringing the tradition of the National Anthem Project to our school.  The National Anthem Project is something started by MENC, the Music Educator’s National Convention where their main purpose for this project was to get Americans to know their National Anthem and to get them singing it.

For two years, we put on an assembly for our entire Cashman Elementary School community that focused on the history of the song, the four verses of the poem and our singing the Star Spangled Banner.  Each year, we always thought about how this event was so close to 9/11, but this year, September brought with it the 10th anniversary so we thought it appropriate to combine the two.

To do this appropriately for our elementary audience, we used carefully chosen images, poetry and song opening up with America the Beautiful.  Then a line of fourth graders came up to a microphone and took us through the assembly, briefly describing 9/11, sharing a poem about heroes, emphasizing unity among Americans, introducing the National Anthem and then leading the Star Spangled Banner.

A view of our 4th grade collage poem commemorating 9/11.

To remember 9/11 in an age appropriate way, the fourth grade students created a poem where all 115 students from five 4th grade classes contributed to a collage poem.  (This idea was learned during the poetry session by Ayanna Gallant during this summer’s Teacher Art Retreat.)  After studying an image commemorating 9/11, students wrote down a brainstorm of words that came to their minds and then narrowed it down to two.  Then, those words were taken, put together and arranged to create a poem.  Each class had their own image and their own sets of words, thus creating 5 verses to a poem.  This poem was read during the assembly.

The students also watched this video that was made by past fourth graders about the story behind the National Anthem before standing tall to sing the song.

The highlight of the assembly, though, were our honored guests: firemen and policemen from the Amesbury community. When these four gentlemen entered our gym, they were greeted by clapping and cheers. It was wonderful. These community celebrities graciously accepted our invitation to attend our assembly and the kids loved having them.

Our guests pose for a picture with our fourth graders after the assembly.

It’s important to have these types of serious assemblies for all age levels to instill a sense of patriotism and pride.  I’m fortunate to work in a school that honors these times.

I wish all a solemn remembrance of 9/11 and send sincere thoughts and prayers to the families of all who have been and still are affected.  May God bless America!

~EMP

Here is the poem our fourth grade students created together to remember September 11, 2001.  The pictures are the ones that inspired each verse.

America’s beautiful twin towers
Standing proud and tall
Big, bright towers
Tall golden towers crashing together
And crumbling
Amazing brave strong America
Tall and Proud
America’s rock-hard freedom standing tall

Freedom
Strong America
Tragedy Destruction Ashes
Brave Hardworking Firefighters
Powerful Bravery
Battle for Freedom
Heroes Raising the American Flag
Brave Strong Independent Americans
Freedom

Fantastic bright city
Enormous New York Twin Towers
Peaceful skyscrapers illuminate the blue skyline
Memorable tragic beam of light
Scary memories of 9/11
Planes hit the Twin Towers
High beams in the night sky
Brave strong army
Bold New York buildings
Brave America

Strong, heroic firefighters
The defenders of America
Willing firemen
Brave helpful lifesavers
Big bold eagle
Strong willing heroes
The twin towers memorial
Freedom and safety
Brave heroic troops
Protective fierce fireman
Encouraging strong heroes
With great courage
Lifesaving guardians
Strong and brave

American Neighborhood Patriotic
American Flags Unity
American Freedom Brave
America Home Together
America Compassionate Peaceful
America safe neighborhood
America Home Courage

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Article by Elizabeth Peterson

Elizabeth Peterson has devoted her life to education and to reaching out to other teachers who want to remain inspired. Mrs. Peterson teaches fourth grade in Amesbury, Massachusetts and is the host of www.theinspiredclassroom.com. She holds an M.Ed. in Education, “Arts and Learning” and a C.A.G.S. degree with a focus in “Arts Leadership and Learning.” Elizabeth is author of Inspired by Listening, a teacher resource book that includes a method of music integration she has developed and implemented into her own teaching. She teaches workshops and courses on the integration of the arts into the curriculum and organizes the annual summer Teacher Art Retreat. Mrs. Peterson believes there is a love of active, integrated learning in all children and from their enthusiasm, teachers can shape great opportunities to learn.
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