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Exploring Dr. King’s Legacy

Baker students of all ages spent the days leading up to Martin Luther King Jr. Day learning about Dr. King and his legacy, ultimately coming together as a community Jan. 15 for a culminating all-school assembly.

From pre-kindergarten through grade 8, students and teachers explored a host of age-appropriate lessons. Here are a few:

Pre-Kindergarten with Ms. Johns:

“We read a very simple story about Martin Luther King Jr. and talked a little about ways in which all people are similar. Even though some of the content of the book is clearly beyond the experience of young children today, this hasn’t always been the case. In addition, it isn’t too early to start exploring the idea of judging people by the content of their character, even though we wouldn’t use those words. Young children understand alike and different, and most have been excluded from play for one reason or another. All children are capable of kindness and compassion, and preschool is the perfect place to practice.”

Junior Kindergarten with Ms. Kampwirth:

“We have been talking about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for a couple of weeks because we have his picture by the door. We read ‘Martin’s Big Words,’ watched an excerpt from his speech, and since we are studying superheroes, we have been talking about how he is a real-life superhero.”

Kindergarten with Mrs. Aiden:

“The children continue to be interested in Dr. King’s work, his life, and his dream for a better world. Through our conversations we were introduced to Rosa Parks and Ruby Bridges. We will continue to explore the era of the Civil Rights Movement and the struggle for peace, justice, equity, and diversity in America. Last week, after reading The Colors of Us, the children all worked at mixing red, yellow, black, and white paint to make their own skin colors. This week they used their paint colors and collage materials to make their self-portraits. We also made MLK ‘Happy Birthday’ crowns with our fourth-grade buddies, and Mrs. Deuble’s fifth-graders came to read MLK and Civil Rights Movement stories to us on Friday during our D.E.A.R. time.”

First & Second Grade with Mrs. Peacock:

“We focused on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s life and his dream to end segregation. On Friday, we created a class birthday card for Dr. King that listed all the wonderful qualities that he possessed. After attending the all-school assembly, the children reflected on how they felt and what they observed. The students shared their own dreams for the world and created beautiful art projects that represented their dreams. Many of their dreams reflected better treatment for animals, homes and food for all people, and more respect for each other and our planet.”

Second Grade with Mrs. Rothschild:

“The first word that we focused on in our study of Martin Luther King Jr. was ‘inspiration’ — and in addition to Dr. King, we also read and talked about others such as Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, and Ruby Bridges. We were able to find a set of fundamental characteristics that these leaders shared, like brave, smart, determined, and good.

“Another way that we thought about Dr. King was to consider the importance of certain rights and freedoms which we enjoy and which the Civil Rights Movement was fought to ensure for all. A book called ‘Papa’s Mark’ by Gwendolyn Battle-Lavert helped us think about the significance of the right to vote and the right to an education. In the book, which takes place a few years after the end of slavery, an African-American man prepares to vote for the first time. To help understand the book more deeply, we conducted our own election and talked about what it would mean to not have been allowed to cast a ballot or to be unable to write.”

Third Grade with Mr. Pfannerstill:

“The class has been putting a lot of time and effort in our study of Dr. King. We have shared many informational books, poems, and short clips to help us picture the world that he grew up and lived in. Also, we listened to parts of his ‘I Have A Dream’ speech and have been doing a choral reading about it. These insights have led to many deep discussions and sharing of ideas and feelings. We watched a documentary about his life called ‘Our Friend Martin.’ This allowed us to see first-hand what a great person he was and his ongoing impact on mankind.”

Third Grade with Mrs. Gehrig:

“We have talked quite a bit about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. We’ve read books, listened to parts of speeches, and done a word study packet with new vocabulary. Next week we will continue our exploration of the Civil Rights Movement and how we can all make a difference.

“Also, we are studying simple machines, and we will be tying this into the overarching question about what we can do to change the world and the celebration of people who made a difference like Martin Luther King Jr. We will closely study a book about an innovative boy in a small village in Africa. He spotted a need, something that needed to change. His village needed fresh water. He designed a contraption, using simple machine concepts and recycled materials to create a wind turbine that helped pump fresh water to his village. This innovative spirit and belief that every person can make a difference, whether in the Civil Rights Movement, pioneering scientific inventions, or social justice in our community, is what we will discuss and thread throughout our curriculum the next couple months.”

Fourth Grade with Mrs. Haug:

“We began a discussion about the Civil Rights Movement to help understand why we have Monday off for Martin Luther King Day. Our work raised some interesting questions and our students shared all kinds of tidbits they knew or had heard about the Civil Rights Movement and current events. Some of these concepts can be abstract at this age, but one point of access that I have found works is storytelling. We watched Linda Gorham tell the story of Rosa Parks and the kids all really enjoyed it.”

Fifth Grade with Ms. Deuble:

“Friday morning’s wonderful assembly honoring Dr. King kicked off an afternoon of service projects for our class. We read to our kindergarten friends, made valentines to send to our Marine friend and his buddies, and made blankets for donation to a local homeless shelter.”

Middle School (grades 6-8) students spent Friday exploring a host of related social and historical issues, starting with an extended video presentation on Dr. King and closing at the end of the day with group reflections. In between, students learned about:

  • imbalances in the justice system, through the lens of human rights lawyer Bryan Stevenson’s popular TED talk;
  • labor and Dr. King’s involvement in the March on Washington;
  • Japanese internment camps during World War II and connections with recent political rhetoric;
  • principles and steps of nonviolent resistance, including Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy of satyagraha;
  • and the numbers of the transatlantic slave trade, the American Civil War, the Reconstruction Era, and the Civil Rights Movement.