Connecting MLK’s lessons to Schechter’s Core Values
Each year, Schechter holds school on MLK Day to engage students of all ages in learning about the legacy and lessons of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and to make connections between his teachings and Schechter’s core values of kindness (lev tov), community (klal Yisrael), and wisdom (chochma).
In Rimonim (grades 2-3), students started by discussing what they already knew about MLK and what they understood about the Civil Rights movement. They read I Have a Dream, a book that matches MLK's famous speech with illustrations by Kadir Nelson. Class members shared the dreams they have for themselves, their classroom, the country, and the world. Students then wrote about their dreams and what they would do to make them happen. Some of the topics in the forefront of their young minds included supporting our troops, planting trees and saving the environment, practicing loving kindness, supporting Black Lives Matter, eating healthy and exercising, and saving the frogs. Together, the class read the book Let the Children March by Monica Clark-Robinson, then discussed the right to peacefully protest and what that looks like. The students created posters about their favorite cause to hold while marching during a peaceful protest around the school. Although the students had different ideas, the main message stayed the same: Rimonim wants love, peace, and fairness.
In Middle School Humanities, students learned about the lynching of Emmett Till and the racial injustice that took place in the 1950s and 1960s. On MLK Day, Deacon Art Miller, former Director of the Office for Black Catholic Ministries for the Archdiocese of Hartford, joined our Middle School students to speak about how the murder of Emmett Till was a tipping point, just as the murder of George Flloyd serves as a tipping point today. He told students that in the future, people will ask them how they felt and what they did during this time. He inspired our students to live and act Schechter’s core values of kindness and community through their everyday actions. Eliana said, “I like this quote by Deacon Miller: ‘Courage means being afraid, but doing something anyway,’ because it reminds me of how courage works. Every time I feel courageous, I can think back to this quote and feel happy that I overcame a fear.”
Gesher students (grades 4-5) first listened to the book I Have a Dream and then created their own MLK-inspired "I Have a Dream" speeches. Then they listened to the book Say Something by Peter Reynolds and talked about what messages they could send to the world. The students filled a circle with the Hebrew words, "Yesh Li Chalom" (meaning "I Have a Dream") and then filled the rest of the space with words and pictures representing messages they would send to the world. In the afternoon, students watched a movie about Ruby Bridges and took notes about what is fair, what is unfair, who has power, and who is powerless, which relates to the work they have been doing in their Social Issues book club unit. After the movie, the whole class discussed their notes and the reasons why they believed parts of the movie were fair or unfair. Students commented that the movie gave them a background about why MLK felt he needed to give his speech and how important it was for people to hear.
The two year olds in Dubonim read some great stories, including Martin’s Big Words by Doreen Rappaport, Happy in our Skin by Fran Manushkin, the Louis Armstrong song-story What a Wonderful World, written by George David Weiss and Bob Thiele, and I like Myself by Karen Beaumont. They discussed kindness and suggested things they can do to be kind. And, for a hands-on activity, the students painted large peace signs using rainbow colors and heart-shaped cookie cutters!
T’marim (EC 3-4) students read several stories that connect to a theme: we all have the same heart, the same brain, and same body, and God loves us all. This story The Color of Us describes different shades as the colors of spices, so students smelled some of the spices mentioned and used them to paint (mixed with oil) to show that we are all beautiful, different colors and we are all special. Students used multicultural markers and pencils to draw a self- portrait. They were asked to look in the mirror and decide on what color their head was. They looked at their eyes and their hair and very seriously chose the colors they thought reflected what they saw. Each beautiful portrait represented our beautiful students.
Parparim class (grades K-1) read Happy Birthday Martin Luther King and discussed how segregation is unkind, how King wanted to change the world, and that King’s legacy was left so that the amazingly kind Parparim class could continue his work. The students pointed out how unfair it was to separate people based on the color of their skin because no one has control over what they look like.
Sh’kedim (EC3-4) read the book Mixed- A Colorful Story, by Arree Chung, a story about a world in which everyone is from one of three colors, and an event leads to the colors separating from each other (and discrimination occurs against the ones that are “different”). But then, something magical happens when two different colors fall in love and decide to mix. This is a very age-appropriate take on discrimination and inclusion. Sh’kedim also read I Like Me by Nancy Carlson, a book that celebrates the uniqueness of individuals as seen through the eyes of a pig.