Little Hands Can In-Program: MLK Day Service Learning Project

Last week I was privileged to do a Martin Luther King Day service learning lesson in a local kindergarten classroom. It was a special experience to talk with five-year-olds about civil rights and equality. I am relating what I taught them in hopes that you, on this Martin Luther King Day, can use some or part of the lesson to teach the children in your life about this important holiday.

I began with the story Ruby Bridges Goes to School: My True Story which is a about the first Black child in New Orleans to go to an integrated school. Since the kids I was talking to are currently in kindergarten, and since the book describes Ruby's experiences in Kindergarten and first grade, this book provided a way for them to connect more personally to the Civil Rights Movement. It also allowed us to learn new vocabulary words like "First Lady" (one girl guessed it meant the first lady who ever lived and other kids had no guess at all). 

We closed that book and opened Can you Say Peace? which has sweet illustrations of kids from all over the world saying peace in their different languages (the kindergartners loved repeating the languages the best they could). On the last page it says that kids all over the world want peace which means they want to feel safe as they go to school, play with their friends, and are with their families. 

After the book we talked about what peace is (emphasizing that it means freedom from war and violence), and that all people want to feel safe. I then explained that though the book said ALL kids WANT to have peace, but unfortunately, there are many kids who do not have peace. There are many parts of the world where there are wars or violence that prevent kids from having peace. We discussed what that would feel like to not feel safe going about our days.

We then did a Peace Pledge from Kids For Peace Global.

I had the kids stand up in a circle, then I explained they can be a positive example of peace. They repeated the pledge like this:
I pledge to use my words to speak in a kind way. (point to mouth)
I pledge to help others as I go throughout my day. (point to others)
I pledge to care for our earth with my healing heart and hands. (point to heart)
I pledge to respect people in each and every land. (make circle over head like earth)
I pledge to join together as we unite the big and small. (hold hands)
I pledge to do my part to create PEACE for one and all.

We sat down and I explained that there's a country called Syria that is having a Civil War. The kids that live there do not feel peace. More than 12 million people have left Syria trying to escape the war. They want to feel peace. These people are called refugees (at this point one little girl raised her hand and said, "Oh, that's just like Emily Bennett from the American Girl books about Molly. Emily has to leave England because they're at World War II and come live with Molly" - if you haven't read that series with your child, it's great historical fiction which really gets them making connections). 

We discussed how refugees miss their friends, their families, and their belongings since they usually have to leave quickly and can only bring a few things with them. The kids drew pictures on personal white boards of how they would feel if they were a refugee and what they'd bring with them.

I told the kids that some refugees come to Eugene. When they come, they probably are missing their home, their friends, and their things and are probably nervous to come to a new place where they don’t speak the language and where everything is different. I told them that to help them feel more welcome, we would be making "Welcome to Eugene" greeting cards.

The kids then folded a piece of card stock in half and copied the word "Welcome" off the board. I told them to draw pictures of happy things and they drew flowers, trees, rainbows, etc. 

At the end of the lesson, I said that I hoped they'd all remember to be peaceful and kind to everyone.