The Crystal Ball of Hope
We look back on the very special crystal ball that came to define the 2001 New Year's Eve celebration in Times Square, and which is now part of the Museum's collection.
On a cold November day, the 9/11 Museum received an extra-special delivery: paper flowers handmade by 5th grade students from Caldwell Heights Elementary in Round Rock, TX. An accompanying note explained that the students had been learning about 9/11 attacks and wanted to honor the victims. We spoke with their teacher, Emily Gardner, about the importance of the lesson - both historically, and as an example of our capacity for healing.
*Answers have been edited for length and clarity.
What inspired the flower-making project?
This project began in 2019 after I attended a teacher seminar at the 9/11Museum sponsored by the Museum Education Team and the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. Each year the lesson and in-class experiences are a little different. We’re able to make connections between current events and 9/11. In 2020, we highlighted the roles of first responders on 9/11 and during COVID-19. This year we spent more time talking about the Survivor Tree and the theme of resilience both after 9/11 and now.
How do you broach such a sensitive topic with young children?
We carefully consider what images and stories we share as we talk about the facts of the day. We want students to understand what happened that day, but we avoid images that might be too heavy, such as photos with victims. We intentionally end the lesson with stories of survivors and hope from that day. We want students to understand that even in the face of a terrible tragedy, many people survived and helped one another.
How did the class react while making the flowers?
After our initial lesson about 9/11, we wanted students to have a way to reflect and respond to what they learned. Students are very moved by the stories of victims, survivors, and first responders and are eager to take action to show empathy. They are always surprised to learn that the victims included children and people with connections to Texas.
Why did you feel this was an important project for your students?
9/11 is a pivotal moment in our country’s history. While the sites of the attacks are far away from Texas, the events of that day affected everyone. As we teach about 9/11, we share our own personal stories from that day and what was happening at our school on 9/11. We encourage students to talk with their family members to learn their stories. Last year one of our students learned that her great aunt was one of the victims at the Pentagon. Her family had never talked about 9/11 with the younger generation. Our lessons opened the door for the family to share about a very special family member who died that day. That family wrote a moving note together that we were able to send to the 9/11Memorial with a flower to be posted next to their great aunt’s name.
What do you hope they took away from this?
While our main goal is for students to understand what happened on 9/11 and in the following weeks and months, we also want students to learn that history is connected. We learn about history through the stories of people who lived through the events and the artifacts that remain. We want them to understand why it is important to learn about history and to want to continue to learn about history.
The 9/11 Memorial & Museum offers many educational resources to teach young children about the history of the attacks and the ongoing impact of that day. Please visit our Students and Teachers resource to learn more.
By 9/11 Memorial Staff