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Benton Heights kindergarten students honor 9-11 victims

Joaly Solis, 5, a kindergarten student in Beverly Garcia’s kindergarten class, gets her turn to help plant butterfly bushes at Benton Heights Elementary School of the Arts commemorating 9-11. Also pictured, at left, is teacher assistant, Phyliss Runyan, and, at right, Beverly Garcia. (Below) Approximately 105 kindergarten students at Benton Heights Elementary School of the Arts recite the Pledge of Allegiance just prior to planting a butterfly bush at the school commemorating 9-11. (Bottom) Benton Heights Elementary School of the Arts kindergarten students take turns shoveling dirt into butterfly bushes being planted at the school commemorating 9-11.

Benton Heights Elementary School of the Arts kindergarten students got a unique perspective on commemorating the victims of the 9-11 terrorist attack on America today by planting three butterfly bushes in their honor.

The commemoration ceremony was organized by Benton Heights kindergarten teachers Beverly Garcia, Brittany Ackerman, Dawn McCourt, Jonica Wortha, Kristen Weaver and Megan McCarver.

“These children didn’t experience it but it’s history, and it’s important to explain the history of it on a level they can understand,” Garcia said. “The focus that we’ve taken as a team is teach them respect for our country and respect for others. That’s why we keep focusing on that - it’s a day of caring and what can you do to help others and to acknowledge what’s happened to them.”

The teachers decided to have something that the students could actually do themselves that would celebrate 9-11, so they decided to plant a tree.

“Real trees grow so slowly, however, and it would take longer to see growth,” McCourt said. “And for kindergarten students, we wanted to see the growth happen more quickly.”

The solution – plant butterfly bushes as they have vibrant blooms that attract butterflies and they grow quickly.

Alexander Sanchez Garcia, 5, a kindergarten student in Brittany Ackerman’s class, said he really enjoyed the activity. “It’s about caring and caring is good for everybody. It’s fun when you dig with the shovel and get dirt on it.”

Joaly Solis, 5, a kindergarten student in Garcia’s class, seem to have a clear grasp of what the day was all about.

“It’s because a plane hit two buildings because someone was being mean,” Joaly said. “They wanted to divide our country, but we stayed together. Now we have good days. So we are remembering today.”

As part of the lesson, Garcia and the other kindergarten teachers also focused on the meaning of the Pledge or Allegiance. “We’re really bringing it to their level,” Garcia said. “We’re teaching what each of those words in the pledge mean. It’s really about making it real so that the memory never goes away. That’s how you cope.”

Coping with the memories of 9-11 is especially important to Garcia, as she was teaching kindergarten in New York City the day of the attack. She was about 40 minutes from ground zero.

“Some of our parents worked in that building,” she said. “Our building was locked down because we have a federal court where the school was located. I stayed really late that day at the school until all the parents could get home.”

Even though none of Garcia’s students lost parents, she lost a dear friend, Joe Martinez. “He was an electrician at the Twin Towers. He had all the keys to the building. He probably was deep underground when it happened. He was never found.”

Garcia said the lesson she hopes to teach her students is to keep hope for the future. “The moral is that even after bad things happen, tomorrow brings a wonderful new day,” she said.

The bush planting activity will also be put to good use as a teaching tool. McCourt said this project would offer teachable moments to kindergarten students up through fifth grade.

“We can use the bush to teach about our surroundings, our environment, which is really important to our children since they don’t know a lot about that,” she said.

Weaver said that after the bushes have been planted, the students, particularly those in the school’s garden club, will continue to take care of the bushes.

Schools across the county held various ceremonies and activities to commemorate the anniversary of Sept. 11. Several UCPS high school held recognition ceremonies at Friday night football games. The schools honored first responders, military personnel, veterans and law enforcement employees.



Written by: Deb Bledsoe - UCPS Communications Coordinator
Posted: Sep 11, 2015 by Deb Bledsoe

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