West Hartford’s Solomon Schechter Day School spent Martin Luther King Day learning about King’s legacy and impact.
Although many schools and businesses have the day off on MLK day, Solomon Schechter Day School of Greater Hartford holds classes every year on this holiday for a specific reason: so that students spend the day learning about the legacy and lessons of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and make connections between his teachings and Schechter’s core values of kindness, community, and wisdom.
Each student, from age 2 through eighth grade, participated in age-appropriate lessons and conversations about King’s impact.
Middle School students (grades 5-8) volunteered at the Midwest Food Bank in Manchester. Although their initial goal was to help others in the spirit of Dr. King, they also came away with powerful lessons about the Food Bank itself and a drive to further help the community.
Students were impressed with the tremendous scale of their operation, noting how much work goes into providing food for people. With only three paid employees, Midwest Food Bank depends heavily on volunteers. In this massive warehouse, volunteers create packages that are then distributed to smaller food pantries and individuals. That Monday, Schechter students packed 64 boxes, each containing 12 large bags of “Scooby Snacks,” a type of graham cracker snack. Students calculated that collectively, they packaged 768 snack bags; if distributed to families of four, their morning work would impact roughly 3,072 people. Students noted that although they worked hard, it was worth it to help people.
Students in grades 3-4 focused on the power of King’s words, doing a close reading of his “I Have a Dream” speech and highlighting the words they felt were the most powerful and significant. Each student wrote a reflection about what they could do to improve the world, accompanied by an artistic representation.
For first and second graders, a recurring theme that hit home was King’s emphasis on kindness, fairness, and peaceful communication. Students were tasked with sorting different scenarios into two categories: treating people fairly and kindly vs. treating them in ways that are unfair and unkind. Students reinforced these lessons through art, superimposing messages of change over a painted earth.
Kindergarten students read aloud Happy Birthday Martin Luther King, providing an introduction to King and his important role in fighting for equality. Students were introduced to his famous “I Have a Dream” speech and reflected upon their own dreams of kindness for all.
Early Childhood teachers took the concept of diversity and applied it in developmentally appropriate ways for their 3- and 4-year-old students: by comparing a white egg and a brown egg. The children gently examined the two eggs and reflected on several questions: What is the main difference between these two eggs? What do you think each egg looks like on the inside? Students shared their thoughts and predictions before teachers cracked both eggs open.
Students observed that inside, both eggs have the same yellow thing. “A yolk!” Tova exclaimed with excitement. This activity concretely showed the children that although people may appear differently on the outside, we are all the same on the inside … feelings, heart, and bones!
Even Schechter’s youngest students, the 2-year-olds, were involved; they made pictures using a variety of skin-tone markers and pencils on black, manila, and white, paper. Teachers read them two books: “Who was Martin Luther King, Jr?” by Lisbeth Kaiser and Mixed by Arree Chung, an age-appropriate book about three different colors who all think they are the best and don’t want to mix with any others.
What better way to reinforce the school’s commitment to “tikkun olam” (healing the world) than to delve into Dr. King’s wisdom?
For more information about a Schechter education, contact Karen at [email protected].
Like what you see here? Click here to subscribe to We-Ha’s newsletter so you’ll always be in the know about what’s happening in West Hartford! Click the blue button below to become a supporter of We-Ha.com and our efforts to continue producing quality journalism.