University of Pittsburgh
April 30, 2013

Pitt’s Falk School Students to Test Young Visitor Booklets at Flight 93 National Memorial May 2

The booklets, designed to help children born before 9/11 understand the memorial, were created by a team including Pitt education professor Mary Margaret Kerr
Contact:  412-624-4147

PITTSBURGH—University of Pittsburgh faculty and graduate students, together with approximately 80 fifth- and sixth-grade students and teachers from Pitt’s Fanny Edel Falk Laboratory School, will visit the Flight 93 National Memorial in Somerset County, Pa., May 2 to conduct a “field test” of an educational booklet for youngsters visiting the memorial.

The Falk students will be the first school group to go through the memorial using “Junior Ranger” visitor booklets created by a team including Mary Margaret Kerr, professor of psychology in education in Pitt’s School of Education, and National Park Service staff. The booklets have been designed to help young visitors understand the memorial site—where United Airlines Flight 93 crashed on Sept. 11, 2001—as well as the complex issues surrounding 9/11.

“Many students weren’t born at the time of the Flight 93 crash,” said Wendell McConnaha, director of the Falk School and associate professor of education at Pitt. “So they’re going to look at this as much more of a historical site, without the sort of overview that those of us who are adults might have of the event itself.”

Kerr says that explaining that overview is one of the challenges she and the team are facing in the development of the booklets.

“Children go to the memorial and see just a vast field,” said Kerr. “Kids have asked rangers things like, ‘Where’s the plane? Where’s the hole?’ There’s not a lot that conveys the event. The challenge is to give children and their families something that doesn’t overexpose the children to some of the more traumatic content, but also is family friendly, so the children have something to take with them and reflect on after they leave.”

For National Park Service staff, the booklet will bridge an important gap in its mission to serve all visitors.

“It was becoming obvious once we opened the memorial that parents were coming with young children and weren’t sure how to tell the story,” said Jeff Reinbold, superintendent of the Flight 93 National Memorial. “Materials like the Junior Ranger booklets are going to be incredibly important to us to find ways to reach the younger visitors and help parents, teachers, and other adults answer questions children may ask them.”

Kerr’s partnership with the National Park Service began in October 2011 at a conference on early childhood trauma. Organized by Carlow University, the Fred Rogers Company, Fred Rogers Center, and Friends of Flight 93, the conference, “September 11 Forum: Impact on Young Children,” piqued Kerr’s interest in using the Flight 93 memorial’s archives—a collection of the more than 40,000 notes, drawings, and other items left at and mailed to the site—as a way of understanding children’s perspectives on the terrorist attacks. Kerr suggested that studying how other children responded to the site might inform materials for the memorial’s planned visitor center, scheduled to open in 2015.

Since then, Kerr has been working with the National Park Service to create a Flight 93 version of the “Junior Ranger” booklets that the National Park Service offers at other park sites nationwide. The booklets, which typically feature activities such as mazes and crossword puzzles, allow children to explore the parks at their own pace.

For the Flight 93 booklets, Kerr teamed up with Kari Olszewski, who received her Master of Science degree in psychology in education at Pitt’s commencement this week, and Mary Anne McMullen, a Pittsburgh-based art therapist and educator. They worked with National Park Service staff to conduct research in the memorial archives, photographing and reviewing hundreds of the items collected since 2001. They then incorporated into the booklets their research insights and three concepts to help young visitors experience the memorial: as a place of reflection, a place to honor those who lost their lives, and a call to action. One of the booklet activities asks children to read about what a tribute is, then look around the memorial for examples of tributes that match those illustrated in the booklet.

After the Falk students tour the site with the booklets May 2, students and teachers will participate in an open-ended discussion to help Kerr and her team revise the booklets, which are expected to be available to all memorial visitors this summer. 

About the Flight 93 National Memorial
The memorial was authorized by Congress in September 2002, just over a year after the terrorist attacks—an unusually brief amount of time; most national park sites are dedicated 50 years or longer after the event commemorated. Visit for more information.

About Pitt’s Fanny Edel Falk Elementary School
Established in 1931, the Fanny Edel Falk Elementary School is a campus laboratory school affiliated with Pitt’s School of Education for students in kindergarten through eighth grade. Visit for more information.