Making MLK relevant
VALLEY STUDENTS ARE LEARNING about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and finding out his day means more than just another three-day weekend.
It took about 18 guesses before the students in Tim Curley’s third-grade class at El Verano Elementary School figured out why they would not be attending school on Monday, Jan. 21. After some postulating came the realization that the upcoming three-day weekend was held in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. But then came the real question: who was he?
Maybe he was a president?
Elementary students growing up in Sonoma County today have no doubt that an African-American man might also be the president of the United States of America. This may be why Sonoma Valley schools are collectively focusing less on the question of race, and more on the ideologies and morals that Dr. King preached and exemplified, and the powerful words he left behind.
“We’re going to be talking about being treated fairly,” said Curley. “Fairness is our big idea this week.”
Students at Kenwood Elementary School are approaching their studies of Martin Luther King Jr. under the overarching theme of “courage.”
Each week at their Monday morning assembly, the students at Kenwood Elementary are introduced to a “toolbox” idea, one that each student – from kindergarten through the sixth grade – is asked to keep in mind during his or her studies and interactions.
“This week, we’re honoring the memory of Martin Luther King by focusing on the tool of courage,” said Principal Bob Bales.
The students in each grade level will also complete studies about Dr. King that are appropriate to their skill level and age. While the younger kids will hear stories about Martin Luther King Jr.’s work, the sixth-graders will look closely at his legendary “I Have a Dream” speech, explicating it to understand its effective use of language.
Students at Sonoma Charter School will remember Dr. King by reciting the same speech at their morning ceremony on Friday. After watching a short skit written by fourth- and fifth-grade teacher Bob Edmondson and performed by his students, each class – from kindergarten through the eighth-grade – will send up a representative to read a line of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream.”
“We’ve adjusted the language a bit for the kindergarteners,” said Edmondson. “We want them to understand what’s really being said.”
Students at the Presentation School are focusing their studies this week under the umbrella theme, “love one another,” according to Principal Nancy Fischman. Students also read through Dr. King’s beloved speech, and all participated in a prayer service, created by the fourth- and eighth-graders and held on Jan. 17 in his memory.
Perhaps, with the help of some Southern Blues tunes played in Curley’s third-grade class, a skit performed by a handful of Sonoma Charter School fifth-graders, or a storybook read in a kindergarten classroom, Sonoma Valley students will wake up Monday morning and thank Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for more than just the opportunity to sleep an extra hour.