If there is any great legacy to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., it is that he taught that people should learn to live together. There is probably no greater life lesson for school kids to learn. Thus, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day is great day for teachers, schools, and children to find activities that serve thie legacy of this great American.
There are many practical and engaging suggestions for kids of all ages.
Kindergarten kids will particularly like arts and crafts for MLK Day. This can be anything from coloring books, printable crafts, a peace reading tree, or cutting up multicolor hand decorations. Their artistic work should emphasize the beauty of how humans are different. Arts and crafts for kids this age is excellent way for children to learn to be creative and to be proud of his or her work.
Assign a set or group of children to craft a visual collage or a poster of a different country other than the United States. The collage should represent traditional dress, food, native animals, maybe an example of their language, any customs, or currency. Be sure that each child now that everyone needs to be involved in the project. This might require some teacher supervision.
5th graders are at an age where they start to feel some maturity. Thus, teaching about MLK should be more focused on what type of problems that they might soon encounter, as they get older. One possible suggestion would be an activity strongly based in problem solving and conflict resolution. Try to devise and assign the kids tasks that will force them overcome some difficulty though the importance of collaboration and teamwork. Some of the scenarios can be about how to build a bridge, to survive on a deserted island, or what if three people find a lost wallet with money. Make sure that it is age appropriate. The purpose of the assignment is to help young people to learn ethics.
In 8th grade, children start to feel somewhat independent. They are at an age where they can do more things by themselves. Thus, why not assign the kids a reading and presentation assignment about struggles for freedom? Have them research certain parts of the Civil Rights movement, the Fight for Women to Vote, the Holocaust, or the American Revolution. Not only does this help kids to learn about analyzing social justice, they are also starting to improve their public speaking skills.
At this age, most young men and women know a great deal about videos and YouTube. Most of their phones can do video. Assign groups of students to make a short video about a social justice issue. It can be about hunger, racism, poverty, child abuse, gun violence, etc. The emphasis should be on how well the students research the topic before making the video. Therefore, be sure to have the groups turn in a preliminary report of their proposed video. This will not only check for content but to make sure that it is truly collaborative.
One lesson that schoolteachers should avoid is a stigmatizing “privilege” role-playing games. An example would be where the teacher will let the pupils who are wearing blue to line up for lunch first. While these games are well intentioned, unless the children are very informed that it is a game, there could be some type of bullying that might rear its ugly head. Any formal lesson about tolerance, non-violence, peacefulness, and or collaborations should have a positive focus from beginning to end.
Check out some additional resources at the National Park Service.