Preschoolers celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

Miss Nani, Preschool 2 teacher at Healthy Starts Children’s Center at Oregon Health Science University in Portland, Oregon, took a creative approach to teaching her kids about Martin Luther King, Jr. Her lessons leading up to MLK day itself included understanding the notions of fairness, truth, love, kindness, and skin tone.

“I introduced the kids to Martin Luther King, Jr. as someone who was worried about fairness as it related to skin tone,” says Miss Nani. “I read them a book that gave a clear and simple explanation of where skin tone comes from — our parents, the sun, and melanin — and read an age-appropriate book about MLK that explained that in his time some people couldn’t use the drinking fountain or ride the bus or go swimming because of their skin tone.”

The intention of Miss Nani’s lesson was to help students be mindful about physical differences and the feelings that come from acts of injustice.

“We talked about how Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream, and that because he worked hard in school and was kind to people, his dream eventually came true,” she says. “The children then wrote their dreams down, and they’ve had some great answers.”

Miss Nani also led discussions focused around acts of kindness and “filling a bucket” — in other words, doing something to make another person feel good every day.

“I found a few activities on Pinterest that looked into what ‘peace’ means,” she says. “We made peace signs out of paper plates and did an activity where we painted doves with finger paint.”

And the kids have taken the lessons to heart:

“The kids’ reaction to this has been really amazing,” says Miss Nani. “One of them brought up “One Love” — like the song — and so we’ve been listening to it. They’ll all put their arms around each other and sing with each other. It’s very cute.”

Today, Miss Nani’s class will bake a cake to celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr.

“I’m hoping we’ll be able to make enough cake for all the classrooms and really spread the message,” she says.

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