As a kindergarten teacher, I always struggle with how to share about Martin Luther King Jr. in a way that is age appropriate: not completely glossing things over, but having the kids walk away with more than, “Why did they shoot him?” Because I know from experience that once they hear that, it is the only thing they fixate on.
I know that our world isn’t perfect. But I do love that my students are growing up in a school where there are African American, Latino, Asian, Caucasian, Native American, and many different nationalities of African kids. And in kindergarten they may notice skin color, but it doesn’t stop them from being friends. Diversity is a part of their everyday lives. Martin Luther King Junior’s work helped to make that possible.
This year, our lesson started with two eggs. A brown egg and a white egg. I asked the kids if they are the same or different and why. Then I cracked the eggs open into clear cups and repeated the question. This time their answer changed to “the same.” I told them that Martin Luther King Jr. was a pretty smart guy, because he knew that even though people might look different on the outside, on the inside, we are all the same – people who want others to be nice to us, who want to be cared about, and who want things to be fair. At this point one student interrupted and said, “Yeah, we are all the same because we all have blue blood” (Um, what?)
Moving on, we skimmed through the book Martin’s Big Words, and talked about those “big words” that he found important: love, peace, friendship, together, etc. The kids then painted their own picture of his “big words”.
I didn’t focus the lesson on race – we mentioned all sorts of differences in the way people look, and I wasn’t really sure how much they got, but then I looked at their finished products. I loved their art. It is so innocent, yet so hopeful, and true to what they believe.
Then there is the painting in the bottom right corner. What is it of, you ask? Well, naturally it is of Martin Luther King Jr. And his tree. Then there was the kid who gave him a crown and couldn’t be convinced that he wasn’t a real king.
But for the most part, I was really proud of my students’ understanding and reflection on such an important person in our country’s history.
Good job, kids!