Local schools commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. Day
Students at Bordewich-Bray Elementary learned how it would feel to be judged for the “color of their skin” rather than for the “content of their character” as part of a role play Friday to illustrate what life was like before the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Joan Hardin, student teacher in Katrina Eckery’s fifth-grade class, prepared the activity to help students better understand the importance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Area schools will take Monday off in observance of the holiday and many teachers prepared special presentations to help the students understand its significance.
Hardin arranged the chairs in the classroom to resemble a bus and each child was given a card. Students who received black cards were labeled African Americans and had to give up their seats to students holding red cards.
As part of the bus role play, a card was placed on each student’s desk, giving one event in the history of Martin Luther King Jr.
Students read aloud facts from the cards, including his birth on Jan. 15, 1929, his assassination in 1968, and the desegregation of buses in 1956, which followed an incident when Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat at the front of a bus.
The students reacted as they discussed the meaning of the bus role play.
Rebecca Jolly was handed a red card but was upset that she could not give her seat to classmate Candice Rutledge, who was holding a baby (a doll).
“It made me kind of sad because she had a baby so she had to work more than I had to work,” Jolly explained. “I just thought maybe it would be better if I could stand and she could sit down to rest.”
Hardin said she wanted students to know what it felt like to be discriminated against, not just hear about it.
“I want them to appreciate the rights they have now and appreciate what their country at this point means,” she said.
All students agreed that the situation presented was not fair.
Some, like Jolly, wanted to remedy the injustice with kindness. But others wanted to take a more violent approach.
“We should hijack the bus and take it away from the white people,” suggested one boy who received a black card.
However, his red-card holding classmate said, “No, we should just all sit together and only kick the ones off that don’t want everyone to sit together.”
Kindergarten students at Mark Twain Elementary also learned a brief history of Martin Luther King Jr.’s life when teacher Paula Baum read to them a children’s version of his biography on Friday.
“It’s a pretty basic lesson,” Baum said. “However, I want them to understand that this person who we get out of school for must have been a pretty important person.”
After listening to the story, Allicia Blake, 6, said she didn’t think segregation would be fair.
“It wouldn’t be fair for the black people because they would be sad,” she said.
Baum said that although she thinks parents’ ideas have a greater impact on the children, the school does have an influence.
“The parents’ influence is stronger, but if they (the students) can interact with other children at school they see that they’re not any different,” she said.
After the story, the kindergarten class discussed ways to solve problems that did not include violence.
They also cut out human forms from various colored pieces of paper. They glued a heart to each form.
Finally, the cutouts were glued hand to hand on a long sheet of paper with the words, “Inside, we’re all the same.”
Next week, Ananda Campbell, an eighth-grade history teacher at Carson Middle School, will show her students the famous “I have a dream …” speech and send a list of questions home with the students to answer with their parents about whether Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream has come true.
“It’s a perfect opportunity to teach the values of tolerance to the students,” she said.