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New Documentary Explores How To Teach Kids About 9/11

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One of the great challenges facing educators and parents on this day is how to introduce kids who were born after September 11th, 2001 to the tragic events of that day. But a new documentary airing tonight on HBO Family aims to help with this exact issue. Check out the trailer for What Happened On September 11 below.

The doc was directed and produced by Emmy-winner Amy Schatz (HBO’s Song of Parkland, The Number on Great-Grandpa’s Arm and An Apology to Elephants) in collaboration with the 9/11 Tribute Museum. Schatz told AP she was inspired to make it when a 3rd grade girl told her about a playdate where she and a friend Googled: “Sept. 11 attacks.”

“When a child does that, what he or she finds are some pretty horrific images that are not necessarily appropriate for kids,” Schatz said. “So I felt a responsibility to try to fill that void and try to give kids something that isn’t horrifying and kind of fills in the gap.”

Schatz, who has previously made docs about the Holocaust and is working on another on the Parkland shooting, said that kids she spoke with all had similar questions about why the event occurred. “You can’t protect kids from what they’re going to come across,” she said. “It seemed to me there was an opportunity to put something out there that is age-appropriate and not too scary and give them the tools they need to understand the world around them.”

Here’s some more info about the 9/11 doc:

Designed in response to children’s questions about the attacks, the film features kids in conversation with survivors and family members, historical segments, and classroom scenes exploring 9/11 through artwork and poetry. The short documentary follows students from Secaucus Middle School on a class trip to the 9/11 Tribute Museum in Lower Manhattan, where they hear personal accounts from Tribute School Group Guides Stephen Kern, who worked on the 62nd floor of the North Tower and recalls the evacuation and buildings collapse, and Matthew Crawford, whose father was a firefighter who died in the South Tower. Back in the classroom, the students create art projects and write poems about 9/11, an assignment their teachers Melissa Heintjes and Doug Depice give as part of a unique interdisciplinary approach to teaching 9/11, helping kids make an “emotional connection to history.”

The 30-minute doc, aimed at kids 7 to 12 years old, debuts tonight at 6 p.m.; it is followed by a companion documentary at 9 p.m. called In the Shadow of the Towers: Stuyvesant High on 9/11, which focuses on the memories of former students at Stuyvesant High School near Ground Zero. You can see the trailer for that below.

Gothamist previously reported on how NYC educators were trying to incorporate 9/11 into their lesson plans, and the difficulty of making 9/11 relevant to their students, most of whom were born after the attacks took place.



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