Local News

Wednesday, Sep 07 2011 06:17 PM

Schools to highlight patriotism, heroism for 9/11 anniversary

BY jorge barrientos Californian staff writer jbarrientos@bakersfield.com

High school seniors were no older than 8 years old when it happened. Some fifth-graders weren't born.

Nonetheless, many local schools this week will observe the 10-year anniversary of the terrorist attacks on 9/11 -- focusing most on the heroism that followed -- with moments of silence, addresses over PA systems, flag ceremonies, theater productions, photo slideshows and speeches by local officials.

Discussions are being encouraged in high school social studies classrooms, school officials said, and ceremonies will take place during all of the high school football games Friday, two days before the anniversary.

"This was a very significant event in the United States that deserves some kind of memorial activity," said Kern High School District Superintendent Don Carter. "Out intent is more for historical significance, as well as the community service aspect we're trying to instill in our kids."

Some schools, particularly for younger grades, won't do much more than hold a moment of silence or other brief acknowledgement.

"I'm not sure it's appropriate to take instruction time to do anything," Norris School District Superintendent Wally McCormick said. "The world has changed, and (9/11 has) absolutely guided (students') lives. But reflection on what has changed because of 9/11 takes some thought."

Greenfield Middle School students will participate in a speech contest, "Why I'm proud to be an American." A former student, now in the military, will lead a flag salute.

But in Greenfield Union School District elementary schools, "we don't push it because they're under the gun so much with the curriculum," Superintendent Chris Crawford said.

In Program Improvement schools, educators do not like taking time away from instructional time, he said.

"It's easily woven into social sciences. It's not as easy to bring it into a science class," he said.

For the most part, administrators at school district offices have not given direction to campus employees on how to observe the anniversary. They've left such decisions up to principals and teachers.

Educational publishers Scholastic and Pearson give teachers free online access to educational materials about 9-11, including for "students too young to remember what happened," according to Pearson.

Some elementary schools will observe the tragedy.

At Arvin Union School District, administrators have encouraged schools to "commemorate the anniversary ... while being sensitive to the ages of their students as not to frighten them," Superintendent Michelle McLean said in an email.

Students there will participate in flag ceremonies, assemblies, poem readings and patriotic song singing.

"I believe that we owe it to the victims and heroes of 9/11, as well as their families, to never forget that day and how it changed our nation and the world in an instant," McLean said.

In Delano Union School District, educators "will not be sharing the specific details of the tragedy," the district wrote in a statement.

"We will share that on this day the United States suffered a tragic terrorist attack where many were killed and injured," a Delano Union statement read. "We will focus on the heroism we saw that day from fire fighters, emergency medical technicians, police officers and the everyday man. We will honor those who lost their lives as well as those who continue to protect our freedom at home and abroad."

Shafter High teacher Carla Stanley in recent years has arranged a student performance focused on 9/11 to "remember why we are a great country." The presentation, at 6:30 p.m. Saturday on campus, focuses on veterans.

"It's important to make a connection with them. This could have been anyone. You could have been them," Stanley said on discussing the victims of 9/11 with students. "It helps bring it home."

Bakersfield College and Cal State Bakersfield too will observe the anniversary. BC will give free admission to members of the armed forces and police and fire department officers to Saturday's 7 p.m. football game.

"Every day, we talk with the players about displaying courage and leadership on the field," Ryan Beckwith, BC's director of athletics, said in a statement. "Honoring these individuals who have displayed true courage, true leadership, is essential."

At CSUB, students, staff and faculty as well as other community members will wear CSUB blue and raise American flags for an aerial photo of a human 9-1-1 on the lawn between Science III and the Student Health Center.

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