Celebrating MLK, Jr.: The Ripple Effect
On Monday, Ms. Abronson asked her First Grade class, “can you change the world if you are only six years old?” After a brief discussion, she read a story about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. when he was a child. The young Dr. King was told that he could not play with a neighbor because of the color of his skin. When the class reacted to the story with shock and anger, Ms. Abronson explained how Dr. King grew up to fight for civil rights and that his efforts changed the world. As the class examines how sound travels with Mr. Abelson in Science, Ms. Abronson is working to help her students understand that small things, like sound waves, can ripple and get bigger. Dr. King is a tangible example of the design challenge that the First Graders are exploring: “How can something small change the world?”
In Fifth Grade, Mr. Wise discussed the history of segregation, the many people who influenced Dr. King (including Henry David Thoreau and Mahatma Gandhi), and Dr. King’s impact on the Civil Rights Movement. The class examined Dr. King’s belief that there are three evils in the world: poverty, racism, and militarism. They learned that Dr. King is commemorated not only for his role as a leader in social justice, but also as an advocate for peaceful solutions. While the First Graders learned that Dr. King’s influence had a positive ripple effect, the Fifth Graders discussed the warning in Dr. King’s teachings: inaction can also ripple. As Dr. King said, “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
In Transitional Kindergarten, the students engaged in an empathy exercise that allowed them to experience segregation themselves. One day after recess, they encountered signs that indicated that people with long hair could only work in some of the areas in the classroom and people with short hair could only work in others. The students were sad and disappointed that they did not have the freedom to use the entire classroom or to work with their friends. After a short time, the whole class discussed their experience. Through this lesson, the TK students were able to relate to Dr. King and to understand how his fight for equal rights relates to them.
As we commemorate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday this Monday, it is an opportunity to reflect upon the incredible contributions of an American hero and also a moment to remember our own commitment to Tikkun Olam and social justice as a Jewish People. When discussing Dr. King’s efforts in the Civil Rights Movement, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel said, “I call upon every Jew to hearken to his voice, to share his vision, and to follow in his way.” When we ask our students if they believe in their own power to change the world, we are grateful to look to Dr. King as an example in teaching them to confidently respond, “Yes!”
Dr. King and Abraham Joshua Heschel marching for civil rights