At OCA, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is an important day of service and learning, providing students the opportunity to engage in chesed and learn from the speeches and writings of Dr. King. For the past several years, OCA has partnered with Jewish Volunteer Connection (JVC) to give to others in need, and this year was no different. Students in grades K-5 made blankets for individuals and families who are experiencing homelessness or struggling to keep their homes properly heated this winter (Manna House). They also participated in Mugs of Love for individuals experiencing poverty who come to the center for hot meals and clothes (Franciscan Center) or prepared craft kits for families experiencing homelessness (Sarah’s Hope Shelters).
Schoolwide, OCA’s teachers embraced this important day as an opportunity to learn about Dr. King’s history and the themes of love and acceptance. Below you’ll find highlights of some of the classroom lessons from that day.
EARLY CHILDHOOD CENTER:
Written by Morah Aviva, ECC 3s
Even our youngest students in the ECC learned about Dr. King. Students learned that he wanted people to love each other saying, “People are similar to a box of crayons. We are all different on the outside (and inside), and together we make a beautiful picture.” Students in our ECC 3s class read a book called, “The Day The Crayons Quit” and, at the end of the story, all of the crayons were happy when they were colored together.
Students made a beautiful art mural in honor of Dr. King. Everyone dipped their hands into their favorite paint color and pressed it onto a large construction paper with the words “We Are All Friends” written in the center of the mural. The mural signifies that people should “not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Egg-tivities! (Beware Egg-cellent Puns Ahead!)
Written by Mrs. Shar, First Grade General Studies Teacher
In our first grade class, we reinforced the ideas and teachings of Dr. King and the civil rights movement. After this lesson, first graders are now very familiar with the phrase, “content of one’s character.” We cracked open some plastic eggs, each filled with character traits, some good and some bad. We had to decide based on the character traits we read if we would be friends with the person; was it mostly a good egg or a bad egg? We decided that we couldn’t tell which egg was good or bad without cracking it open and getting to know it on the inside. That is what we meant by the content of one’s character.
As a secondary focus, the class discussed that everyone has good and bad character traits. How could we help a friend who has a bad character trait? One student explained that these traits are our challenges from Hashem and working on them helps us grow. (Wow!)
Once we examined what was inside the plastic eggs, we took it to the n-egg-st level! Everyone had the chance to carefully decorate an egg, giving it a face, hair, and a little personality. We discussed how different they looked on the outside and then had a great time cracking them open to see what was on the inside. We were egg-stremely surprised that the eggs we were more used to seeing really were egg-zactly the same as the darker ones we were just introduced to. We made sure to point out that there weren’t just two types of eggs (or two types of people…) That just as we decorated our eggs to be unique and different, so are we – unique and different on the outside, with brown shells, white shells, curly brown hair, blonde straight hair, freckles, etc. The first graders loved the egg-speriments and learned so much through this process.
Written by Mr. Chuck Goetz, 6th – 8th History and 8th ELA Teacher
On MLK Day, all of the middle school history classes spent the day exploring the significance of Dr. King to Americans in general and Jewish Americans in particular. All classes began with a playing of the song Pride (In the Name of Love) by the Irish rock band U2. Pride is U2’s homage to Dr. King and his principles of nonviolent protest against oppression. Classes then watched a short video on the connections between Dr. King and Jewish leaders of the 1950s and 1960s.
Important rabbis marched with Dr. King in Selma and gave speeches at the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, while the American Jewish Committee awarded Dr. King the American Liberties Medallion in 1965 for his “exceptional advancement of the principles of human liberty.” This led to a discussion of Dr. King’s legacy as a leader against oppression that all people who have been oppressed – Black Americans, Jewish people, the Irish – can identify with, applaud, and benefit from. Some classes also listened to an excerpt of the Gospel spiritual “Go Down Moses” as sung by Louis Armstrong (the lyrics are partially reprinted below) as another way to understand the connections between the African-American struggle for rights and historic Jewish struggles with oppression.
Finally, each grade watched all or part of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech that he gave in August 1963. Students were asked to observe the demeanor, dress, and racial makeup of the crowd which helped many to understand that the civil rights movement was both non-violent and inclusive of both white and Black Americans. While many students had seen excerpts of the speech before, none had seen it all the way through.