Today in the United States we recognize the life of Martin Luther King Jr. and his major contributions to the Civil Rights movement. Last week in my first grade class we spent a good deal of time learning about Martin Luther King Jr. We read a few books about him, we watched a youtube video that talked about his life and also contained real footage from Dr. King’s speeches and marches. We did a writing project using words to describe Dr. King’s character and traits. We talked about emulating what he taught about equality and freedom. How he preached freedom by use of non violent means.
As we started telling the students about the changes in freedom and equality that Dr. King made, I was struck by the questions the students asked. They were dumbfounded that Blacks and Whites were not treated equally. They could not even fathom the concept. They could not understand how there could be separate water fountains, bathrooms, they asked “but how did people know which to use??” and then became more mystified when we told them they had been marked “Colored” (the term used then for Blacks) only, or Whites only”
I was very young in the 1960’s and only really learned about Dr. King after the riots and speeches and marches had taken place. I grew up in the first town in the United States to voluntarily integrate its schools, so was made aware of the changes Dr. King had brought first hand. For six year olds today though, the concept of segregation is unfathomable. It was during these discussions in the classroom that I realized how far we really have come. They don’t see color, and can’t even believe that people could be treated differently because of it.
To bring the point home we did an experiment in class. One brown egg and one white egg. We cracked them open to reveal that both yolks were exactly the same, despite their different color on the outside. Just like people- we may look different on the outside, but we are all the same on the inside.
We talked about the dream Dr. King had, the words he shared about that dream, which are important to remember when we struggle through times of racial tension throughout the country.
Our students wrote about their dreams, here are some of them