Monday, February 1, 2016

Equality Eggs-periment: The Power of Martin Luther King, Jr.

"Intelligence plus character -- 
that is the true goal of education."

I love this quote for so many reasons. Sometimes among the craziness of standards, high-stakes testing, interventions, and meetings, it's easy to get bogged down by the checklist of things that we need to teach our students. But I love when I feel like I am truly teaching STUDENTS, not just STANDARDS. While teaching reading and math is, of course, extremely valuable and necessary, there is something incredibly rewarding about training a student's character and influencing their thoughts and views of themselves and the world around them. This is is what it truly means to "shape" a child. This kind of teaching brings me joy and fulfillment that no mastered math concept could ever do.

This is one of the reasons why teaching about Martin Luther King, Jr. is one of my favorite things! It allows us to help students see and experience a kind of education that delves deep into who they are and the kind of people we want them to become.

To set the stage for our unit on MLK and really hit the point that "all men are created equal" regardless of our outward differences, we did an egg experiment in our class. I presented the students with three different colored eggs: white, tan, and brown.

We observed the eggs and students took note that on the outsides the eggs were different colors, different sizes, and that some even had spots. We then predicted what the eggs will look like on the inside. At this age, my scholars assumed that as they are different on the outside, they would also be different on the inside.

After we predicted, we cracked the eggs open.

They were shocked to discover that even though they are outwardly different, all of the eggs are the same on the inside. We even played a quick game were I switched the bowls around as they closed their eyes, and they tried to identify which yolk belonged to which egg -- however they couldn't tell. They really are all the same.

The students recorded the results of our eggs-periment.

The conversation that we had after the experiment was so powerful and eye-opening for the students. We talk about how people are just like eggs. While we may be different on the outside (our skin color, our height, our likes/dislikes, our families, etc.), we are all the same on the inside. There is no difference. We are all special, important, valued, and equal. As the students discuss this and we generalized what this means in our interactions and views of one another, it restored my faith in the future of our country and world (sorry to be so overly dramatic). But it really did. If we can help our students to develop into the kind of citizens who are  compassionate, caring, and who embrace one another, our world truly could be different.

Once the students had the context of our experiment, we began to delve into literature about Martin Luther King and other civil rights activists over the next two weeks. As January is the month we study biographies, we read not only about MLK, but also Rosa Parks, Ruby Bridges (who the students really connect with because she was in 1st grade when she went to her new school), Harriet Tubman, and Jackie Robinson. Above is a photo of the books that have been featured on the outside of our library.

In our study of MLK, we learn about and watch clips from his famous "I Have a Dream" speech. We discussed his dreams as well as our own dreams for our families, our school, and our world. Students wrote out a speech to share their dreams.

We then had a special rally where the students presented their speeches to the class just like MLK did.

We did an easy hand-print project to house our speeches.

It's times like these that make the stress and challenge of teaching truly worthwhile. This is how teachers affect eternity. This is how teachers make a difference. This is why I'm so proud to be a teacher!

On a slightly tangential note, Martin Luther King has some of my favorite quotes. Here are some that have been really resonating with me recently:

"If you can't fly then run,
If you can't run then walk,
If you can't walk then crawl,
But whatever you do
You have to 
keep moving forward."

"If I cannot do great things, 
I can do small things in a great way."

"Life's most persistent and urgent question is,
What are you doing for others?"

"Almost always,
the creative dedicated minority
has made the world a better place." 

"The ultimate measure of a man
is not where he stands in moments 
of comfort and convenience,
but where he stands
at times of challenge and controversy.

"We must accept finite disappointment,
but never lose infinite hope. 

"Faith is taking the first step
Even when you don't see the whole staircase."

Hope you are as inspired and encouraged as I am!


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