Lesson Plan: Cover Stories

Center of the Universe (Grades 6-12)

1. Display or distribute copies of The New Yorker cover entitled, Center of the Universe. Do not reveal the title to students.

2. Ask students to look at the cover for one minute and write down what they notice on a sheet of paper. If viewing on individual laptops or tablets, encourage them to use the zoom function.

3. After one minute, conduct a guided inquiry using the following questions: (note: each question has the same follow-up question designed to get students to support their responses with evidence.)

 - What do you notice on this cover? What else do you see?
 - Where is Manhattan situated on this cover? What makes you say that?
 - Why do you think the artist placed Manhattan in space? What makes you say that?
 - When was this cover published?

4. Summarize student observations. What do you think the artist is trying to convey about New York City through the cover? What makes you say that?

5. Reveal the title of the cover, Center of the Universe, by Mark Ulriksen. How might being considered the "center of the universe" be both positive and negative?

6. Share the following quotes that highlight both positive and negative attributes.

In spirit, the trade center is a United Nations of Commerce. In concept, the trade center is a marketplace to the Free World. In operation, the trade center will be a thriving city within a city, the dynamo of the port’s trade with the world.
     -  Austin J. Tobin, Port Authority Executive Director, in August 1966

Sheikh Mohammed said that New York was definitely the economic capital of the U.S., and thus, was always the first target on his mind …The most attractive targets were high buildings, both for their relative ease of targeting, as well as for symbolic impact.
     -  Testimony excerpt from the trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, mastermind of the 9/11 plot

7. Conclude the discussion by asking: How does the meaning of the cover change after 9/11?

Image courtesy of The New Yorker © Condé Nast

Additional resources on the history of the World Trade Center and Islamist Extremism:

Lesson Plan: Islamist Extremism in the Last 20 Years
Lesson Plan: History of the World Trade Center
Primary Source: Osama Bin Laden’s Declaration of Jihad Against Americans
Primary Source: Osama Bin Laden’s 1998 Fatwa
Interactive: 9/11 Related Terror