Children and parents gathered around a cake at the Children's Museum of Northern Nevada to sing "Happy Birthday" to Martin Luther King Jr. on Monday.
"If we're going to celebrate his birthday, let's celebrate it kid-style," said Gale Thomssen, education coordinator for the museum. "It's a birthday, so cake is appropriate and it makes it easier for the children to relate."
The museum, which normally closes on Mondays, remained opened as area schools let out to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Thomssen said staying open benefited parents who had to work and also helped the children better understand the significance of the holiday.
"Martin Luther King Jr. is certainly an American who needs to be honored," she said. "It helps deepen our understanding of how important it is for people to treat each other kindly and fairly."
Wendy Frogget, mother of four, called the museum last week to see if any special activity would be planned for the holiday.
"It was a place to come that the kids could have fun and celebrate this holiday a little rather than just stay home and watch TV and play Nintendo," she said.
She said it was also important to learn about the life of King.
"It's important for them to learn about him and how he was trying to change the world peacefully," Frogget said.
Her oldest son, Michael, has already learned about King in his sixth-grade class at Scarselli Elementary School.
We've been studying about the Civil War and we read a book about him," said the 11-year-old. "He said all men are created equal just like President Lincoln did in the Gettysburg Address."
Dick Nachtsheim of Reno said he and his wife talked with their two children earlier in the day about the significance of the holiday.
"It's important for them to understand what Martin Luther King Jr. stood for and how he tried to achieve his goals in a non-violent way," Nachtsheim said.
His 5-year-old son, Blake, said that blacks and whites are equal because "they just are."
Throughout the day, the museum featured an art project where children cut out human forms from different-colored pieces of paper.
"We want to stress that people all need to be treated the same and that all of us are important," Thomssen said. "Every individual counts."
Fast facts about Martin Luther King Jr.
-- Born Jan. 15, 1929, in Atlanta, Ga.
-- Graduated from high school at 15.
-- Ordained a minister in 1948 at 19 years old.
-- Married music student Coretta Scott in 1953.
-- Received a doctorate in theology from Boston University in 1955.
-- Protested segregated bus system in Montgomery in 1955 after Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on the bus.
-- In 1956, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered Montgomery to provide equal, integrated seating on public buses.
-- Delivered his famous "I Have a Dream" speech at the Lincoln Memorial to more than 200,000 Americans in Aug. 23, 1963.
-- Congress passed the Civil Right Act in 1964 prohibiting racial discrimination in public places and called for equality in schools and in the work place.
-- Shot and killed during a strike of black garbage workers in Memphis, Tenn., on April 4, 1968.