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Local teacher helping kids learn about Sept. 11

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A local teacher is helping kids across the United States, and around the world, come to grips with the terrorist attacks of last Sept. 11.

Kate Woods, a supply teacher with the Rainy River District School Board, came up with a project more than a year ago that helps kids define what it means to be a Canadian.

But that project now is being used by hundreds of different teachers—mostly in the U.S.—to define what it means to be an American and how Sept. 11 has changed that.

“I’m honoured that people want to use it all over the world to talk about Sept. 11,” Woods said.

The project, entitled “What it means to be a Canadian,” lets kids work in groups to explore their feelings on the subject.

Students create a Canadian flag on a sheet of Bristol board. On one half are quotes and pictures outlining the media’s perception of being Canadian.

On the other half, students have quotes and pictures from themselves, their friends, and family about their views of being Canadian.

“For Canadians, it is important to think about the media and the messages we receive about our identity and compare them to our own experiences,” Woods explained.

“It’s important that their experience matters, too. It matters as much as what the media says,” she stressed.

Woods created the project last year with the help of Fort Frances High School teacher Val Martindale for an English/Media Studies course. She then posted the lesson plan on TheLessonPlansPage.com—a Web site for teachers.

The project quickly was picked up by dozens—and eventually hundreds—of teachers across the U.S. as a way of teaching kids about Sept. 11.

“Sept. 11 raises a lot of questions and this is an opportunity for kids to talk about their feelings,” Woods said. “It’s a good way for Americans to reflect on what it means to be American before and after Sept. 11.”

Teachers from around the world also have contacted Woods about her project, asking for the “rubric” (or marking system). About one teacher a day contacts her, she said.

“With the incidents of 9/11 and the tightening of our basic freedoms, I have collected many newspaper and magazine articles,” wrote Mary Ellen Barker from Monson, Mass.

“I plan to modify your idea of the flag to show how special our liberties are, and the cause and effect of the terrorist acts on our personal and national identities,” she noted.

“Thank you so much for this lesson,” added Elizabeth Craft of Schenectady, N.Y. “I appreciate your generous efforts. They paid off so well, and my senior media class has proudly displayed their work on a bulletin board by the cafeteria.”

Knowing that in classrooms across the U.S. her project is helping kids come to grips with who they are, and helping them deal with the anniversary of the terrorist attacks, hits home for Woods.

“It’s also really personal for me,” she noted. “I feel now that I’m attached to Sept. 11 and knowing I’m helping people deal with that.”

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