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In 1983 the Congress of the United States set aside the third Monday in January as a federal holiday honor the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. This date falls near his birthday, January 15. It is a day for remembering and rededication to the principles for which he stood - freedom, justice, and equal rights for all, achieved through peaceful means.
- Ask the students to define prejudice and explain what it means to them. Talk about some reasons people might be prejudiced (fear, ignorance, echoing parents' sentiments, etc.). Discuss ways that people can overcome their prejudices - learn about others, discuss fears, cooperate with others, etc.
- Read books about prejudice. Appropriate titles include But Names Will Never Hurt Me by Bernard Waber (Houghton Mifflin, 1976), Crow Boy by Taro Yashima (Viking Press, 1955), Tico and the Golden Wings by Leo Lionni (Pantheon Books, 1974), Like Me by Alan Brightman (Greenwillow Books, 1982).
- Define boycott. Read aloud to the students a short story about Rosa Parks and the ensuing bus boycott. One appropriate title to read is Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott by Teresa Ceisi (Millbrook Press, 1991). Ask students if they think they could be as brave as Ms. Parks.
- Discuss the meaning of peaceful behavior. Then assign the activity titled "Peacefully" in this booklet. Upon completion, have students (in pairs) take turns role-playing the characters in their concluding conversations.
- Learn about the peaceful protest of 1963 in which a quarter of a million people marched on Washington, D.C. to demand equal rights for blacks. "A Peaceful Protest" in this booklet will give students an opportunity to use their skip-counting skills to help figure out the name of this historic event.
- Divide the class into small groups and ask students to look at the page in this booklet titled "History Surrounding Martin Luther King, Jr." Have each child read at least one paragraph of the page aloud. Then have them discuss their interpretations of Martin Luther King. Jr.'s quoted words among themselves.
- Martin Luther King Day is celebrated in January. Many cities have named streets or buildings after him. Find out what your community has done or is planning to do to honor him.
- Read books about Dr. King. Some titles include A Picture Book of Martin Luther King, Jr. by David Adier (Holiday, 1989), Martin Luther King Day by Linda Lowery (Lemer, 1987), and What Is Martin Luther King Jr., Day? by Margot Parker (Childrens Press, 1990).
- Ask students to locate Georgia (Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthplace) on a map of the United States. Then have them name the states that border Georgia.
- Georgia is known for its peaches. Try to purchase and eat some fresh Georgia peaches. Prepare peach pie or peach cobbler as a class project or serve sliced peaches with vanilla yogurt.
- Have the class do some library research to learn about Coretta Scott King, Martin Luther King, Jr.'s widow.
- Discuss Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" speech. If age appropriate, read the speech to your class or listen to a recording of it. Brainstorm a list of ways to keep Dr. King's dreams alive.
- Talk about the significance of the Nobel Peace Prize. This is awarded each year to the person who has done the most effective work in the interest of world peace. Dr. King received this medal and cash award in 1964 for leading the African American struggle for equality in the United States through nonviolent methods. Dr. King did not keep the money but gave it away to other people who had worked with him for peace. Award each of your students a peace prize for their work toward getting along well with others or finding peaceful solutions to conflicts.
- Martin Luther King liked to eat soul food such as pork, black-eyed peas, and turnip greens. Sample some soul foods. If possible, ask adult volunteers to help prepare a dish in class. Carefully explain the food preparation to the students.
- Create a wall of dreams. Trace around each student's body onto butcher paper. Direct the children to cut out the forms and draw their own portraits, clothes, and other features. Tell them to write their dreams for peace on the body sections. Join all the paper bodies by the hands and line the classroom walls with them.
- Use Martin Luther King, Jr. Day to begin a study of African Americans. The minibook activity in this booklet may be a good place to start. Continue the unit throughout February, African American history month.