Due to his non-violent leadership during the civil rights movement, Martin Luther King Jr. is a man that should be revered. Martin Luther King Jr. Day is the perfect time for educators to teach children about his far-reaching impact. This January, engage your students with some of these classroom activities to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Celebrating his Biggest Achievements
In order for students to appreciate Dr. King, they must know about some of his greatest achievements. Allow students to look at sites such as thekingcenter.org for information about King’s biggest achievements. Next have students draw a birthday cake and decorate it. Finally, have them write down one of MLK’s achievements on the back of the cake.
Called to Serve
MLK’s birthday is also known as a Day of Service. In order to honor his birthday, this holiday is a great time to give back to the community. Have students go to mlkday.gov to find a service project near your school. To do this as a school, you would need parental consent. However, you can also plan a class project on your own. Some ideas are campus beautification such as creating a garden or picking up trash off the playground. Teachers could arrange a time where older students read to younger students too.
What Would you Do?
During the Montgomery Bus Boycott, African Americans fought peacefully against segregated seating. Rosa Parks was one woman who refused to give up her seat for a white man. Inform students that segregation occurred not only on buses but at schools, lunch counters and even churches. If students were denied service or access to a place based on their race, ask them what would you do? Responses must be non-violent in nature.
For younger students, there are plenty of great picture books that allow children to learn more about MLK. A Picture Book of Martin Luther King Jr. by David A. Adler and Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by Doreen Rappaport are two good choices. After reading the books, students can make a time line of important events in King’s life.
What are Civil Rights?
Do your students know the meaning of the term “civil rights?” According to Cornell University Law School, “a civil right is an enforceable right or privilege, which if interfered with by another gives rise to an action for injury.” Some examples include freedom of speech, the right to vote and equality in public places. Have students journal and then discuss why civil rights are important.
These educational activities will help classes celebrate MLK and teach students about Martin Luther King Jr. Day.