by Tina Evans, 4th Grade Teacher
This past Tuesday, the 4th Grade celebrated the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. We have been engaged in learning about the life of Dr. King and others in our unit of study of the Civil Rights Movement through which we explore historical content through discussion, reading, writing, and multimedia resources. In this unit, we learn about key people who orchestrated many of the major events of the movement including the Montgomery Bus Boycott, school integration, lunch counter sit-ins, the fight for voting rights, and the March on Washington. The biography of Dr. King and other supplemental materials serve as a great example of our overarching theme of 4th Grade: social justice.
For our celebration, students wrote thoughtfully about what they would say to Dr. King if given the chance. Many students reflected on Dr. King's accomplishments and praised him for his willingness to fight for basic human rights. Others asked tough questions such as "How were you able to remain brave when you were faced with so much fear?" Students included their letters on a self-designed birthday card which they shared with their peers. Included in the celebration was an acknowledgement of the people who fought tirelessly after Dr. King's death to make sure that his birthday was designated as a national holiday. Additionally, students enjoyed the birthday song that Stevie Wonder made specifically in celebration of the life and legacy of Dr. King (and learned that the song is still sung at many birthdays in Black culture), and of course, there was cake!
Our primary goal for this unit is for students to strengthen their critical thinking and reasoning skills as they explore a time period in American history that is, at times, difficult to understand. Throughout this exploration, we hope that students will develop a greater understanding of race relations in America and learn how acts of civil disobedience have led to many changes throughout the history of our nation. We will also discuss "the work that remains" in regard to inequalities that persist in education, income, and employment.
As Dr. King's legacy lives on through his family, the work that is done through the King Center, and the newly erected King monument on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., the 4th Grade will continue to celebrate him as an American hero.