By- Kelli Drummer-Avendano
Martin Luther King Jr. Day was first observed in 1986. Since then, it’s become a holiday synonymous with service and equality. While most students have heard of Dr. King or have a vague idea about why he’s important, teachers can make the commemoration of this day more significant by incorporating activities that speak to his work and lasting legacy. Here are a few ideas to get started.
1. Learn about nonviolent resistance
Start by studying Dr. King’s six principles of nonviolence and six principles for nonviolent direct action. These ideals were the foundation of his movement and influenced all the work he carried out. Students can discuss the advantages and disadvantages of social change through pacifism. Additionally, have them brainstorm ideas on how to use nonviolence to solve everyday problems and global issues.
2. Read and discuss books that deal with inequality
Dr. King talked about more than just race inequality. His vision was to lessen the burden of all types of inequality—race, gender, income, geography, etc. There are many books that speak honestly about this theme, but that is still on a level accessible to younger students. Some examples of picture books include Amazing Grace; Skin Again; Brave Girl; and Separate Is Never Equal.
3. Create artwork for peace
Art can be cathartic and inspiring. Gazing at murals depicting cooperation, harmony, and equality rouse in us a sense of promise and goodwill. Many of Dr. King’s speeches use vivid imagery to help us imagine a better, more peaceful world, especially his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. Let students use their imaginations to create artwork based on a quote by Dr. King. Have them explain why they chose the quote and how their art reflects his words.
4. Work together for a common purpose
Service to others was at the heart of Dr. King’s work and has become the way many people choose to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Choose a volunteer project that your entire class can participate in. Although there are numerous volunteer activities sponsored by organizations and businesses, you can also create your own. For example, you could organize a neighborhood cleanup or make homemade cards to send to a local nursing home. The idea is to simply allow students to give of themselves in honor of Dr. King’s service.