Johnathan Chase with a fascinating explanation of how music and technology can be used to connect students with history!


During the summer of 2001 French filmmakers Jules and Gedeon Naudet were in New York City documenting the daily activities of Engine 7 Ladder 1. This footage was intended to be part of a documentary that profiled the “coming of age” of a rookie fire fighter assigned to the firehouse that was located just blocks away from The World Trade Center.  As chance would have it, the Naudet brothers were riding along with the firemen on September 11th and their soon to become 9/11 documentary would provide a first-hand account of events that day including the only footage from inside the World Trade Center. This powerful program honors the victims of 9/11 and pays tribute to the heroism and sacrifice of the first responders. While the film may bring back painful memories it is an important primary source that vividly captures the powerful emotions, images and sounds of that day.

This year I will be introducing a post-viewing media and service project that will challenge my students to create a 9/11 tribute video which purposely and meaningfully blends music with the powerful images and words from that day. The finished project will be guided and informed by the education goals of the National September 11th Memorial and Museum which include… “Provide opportunities for the public to make meaningful and purposeful connections between the history of 9/11 and their own lives. and Suggest ways to honor the memory of those killed and extend involvement with the legacy of 9/11 through acts of civic/community involvement and volunteerism.” I have created a web page on my US Government class Wiki that provides additional details, directions and resources for this project…

Back in 2002 I also first introduced a 3D Memorial Project to my middle school classes.

Students were required to research a significant historic event or an individual no longer living that served as a positive role model and made a difference in the lives of others. They were also challenged to select a dedication or tribute song that is played during the class presentation of their Memorial Project. Over the years numerous students have chosen to create projects for 9/11. I have created a web page on my US Government class Wiki that provides additional details, directions and resources for this project…

I first used the Naudet brothers  9/11 documentary back in 2002 and at that time asked my students to write poems or letters to Engine 7 Ladder 1 which were personally delivered to the firehouse on Duane Street. There is a media gallery or digital archive where you can view these letters and poems along with a collection images documenting the student-made 3D Memorial projects…

Integrating art, media and technology helps young citizens to develop critical skills, essential for participation in a modern democratic society. Art and technology based activities provide a means of “reaching” the growing number of disadvantaged and disengaged students through multimedia projects and powerful learning experiences.

Songs are a timeless expression of the human experience. They capture the history of events, ideas, and people that have shaped our pluralistic society. Song lyrics are an excellent teaching tool that will engage, excite and motivate young people. The creative process of analyzing and interpreting or even re-interpreting song lyrics helps students to develop essential critical thinking and media literacy skills.

Music can also foster and enhance intergenerational communication. Historically, music has been viewed as a force that widens the “gap” between generations. The critical thinking approach to music serves to bring parent and child together to share interests, ideas, and feelings. Several students have completed projects using songs suggested by their parents. While the sound and style of music has changed dramatically over the years, the content or subject matter of many songs has remained constant, as artists continue to sing about significant social causes and political issues.

Schools should be in the business of creating diverse and stimulating learning environments and experiences where a child’s athletic, artistic and creative talents are free to flourish and thrive. The arts have always been the fuel that feeds the flame of exploration and inquiry.

We should prepare our children to be thinking, caring and responsible citizens who can make meaningful and lasting contributions to our challenging and vibrant world. They need to be taught how to make quality choices as they collaborate with others.

We can only hope that their combined efforts will provide for a productive, safer and more inclusive community while they avoid self-defeating attitudes and behaviors that so easily entrap children and young adults.

I hope to encourage other educators to incorporate media and contemporary songs into their classroom lessons and activities. Recognize that the student is the most valuable resource a teacher can have when it comes to selecting songs. Asking students to bring music into the classroom demonstrates respect for their interests. This builds student confidence and enthusiasm. Employing this strategy, the teacher serves as a facilitator, designing critical learning experiences and activities that lead students to new knowledge, insights, and understandings.


Johnathan Chase

Edmeston Central School (K-12) 500 Students

Central New York

Grade 7 and 12 Social Studies Teacher ( 23rd year )

Presenter of Learning From Lyrics workshops

Founder and Director of M.U.S.I.C.