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History For Kids:10 Ways to Mark a Special MLK Day


MLK Day 2014 offers a tremendous learning opportunity for children of all races and ethnicities.


1. For MLK Day, Read Dr. King's "I Have a Dream Speech"

Courtesy of National Archives, original copy
It won't take long. Maybe 8 minutes. Read it aloud, in a group. It's educational, exhilarating, moving. You can read it here.

2. MLK Day of Service

Photo courtesy of http://mlkday.gov

One of the best ways to celebrate MLK Day is to participate in the annual Day of Service.

From the website: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, "Life's most persistent and urgent question is: 'What are you doing for others?'"....The MLK Day of Service is a part of United We Serve, the President's national call to service initiative. It calls for Americans from all walks of life to work together to provide solutions to our most pressing national problem

How to Get Involved: Check out some "official" projects in Brooklyn here.

But if these aren't convenient (or if you are out of town), you can work with your children in other forms of community service to mark the day: help out in a soup kitchen, read to or with children in need of educational support, assist the elderly. Still not sure where to begin? Check with your local faith community.




3. Use A Free Online Kit for a Community Service Project


The national Corporation for National Community Service has free resources for parents or teachers who want to plan an MLK Day project on such topics as varied as helping military families to learning to eat healthily to planting trees (the latter might not be applicable in Brooklyn in February!). Here are topics of these 20 free, detailed kits.

4. Dr. King Won the Nobel Peace Prize...Do You Know Why?

Courtesy of Nobelprize.org
Even elementary school kids have heard of the Nobel Prize...and even if they haven't, what kids aren't into prizes? MLK Day is a chance to discuss what it means to do so. See the link for info.

5. 2014: Celebrate 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act

Little Rock High School, site of desegreation crisis prior to Civil Rights Act of 1964
With the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, fifty years ago, one chapter closed and another opened in what's been called the "civil rights movement" in the US. It's a ripe moment to discuss what kinds of discrimination were practiced before the law was passed, what happened after it was passed, and how to appreciate progress while continuing to work toward full equality and diversity.


6. Buy a 46 Cent Stamp, and Learn an Invaluable History Lesson

Think stamps.


In honor of its 150th year anniversary, the Emancipation Proclamation is now the theme of a US postage stamp. The Emancipation Proclamation Stamp itself has a bit of history: it was unveiled at Washington DC;s National Archives, where the original Emancipation Proclamation is on display. At a ceremony announcing the stamp, the Proclamation was read by scholar-singer-activist Bernice Johnson Reagon (whom the Smithsonian Folkways refers to as a civil rights song leader.) And, if the kids are into stamp-collecting, check out these three different Civil Rights stamps:

  • The Emancipation Proclamation stamp
  • Rosa Parks
  • 1963 March on Washington stamp.
  • (In 2009, the post office released 12 other stamps featuring civil rights pioneers).

7. Discovery! Barack Obama Once Lived in a Brooklyn Brownstone

Photo from Whitehouse.gov
Brooklyn kids will get a kick out of the fact that the President once lived in Brooklyn, near Prospect Park. He probably didn't expect, at that point in his life, to become president.

8. See the Movie "Lincoln" or "12 Years a Slave"

Promo Photo for "12 Years a Slave"
Two movies released since 2013, 12 Years a Slave and Lincoln raise a lot of issues about slavery, freedom, race and American history. It you haven't already seen them this is as good a way as any to juice up some thoughts about civil rights. 

9. Do a Family Puzzle about Martin Luther King

If Dr. King was about anything, he was about working together to achieve a common goal. So, collect your family together and work as a group on these fun MLK Day puzzles.

10. Keep Score of 20 Words: A Kids Game on MLK Day

Brooklyn kids are used to discussions about race, Hurricane Sandy, MLK Day, and lots of political issues. So, keep them in their seats for speeches on MLK Day  by asking them to keep score of how many times  these 20 words  are mentioned.
  1. Martin Luther King
  2. Martin Luther King Day
  3. sit-ins
  4. Constitution
  5. Civil Rights Act
  6. Emancipation Proclamation
  7. freedom
  8. segregation
  9. race
  10. income inequality
  11. discrimination
  12. gun control
  13. Obamacare
  14. MLK Day of Service
  15. Republican Party
  16. Michelle
  17. Sasha and Malia
  18. New York
  19. the Internet, and
  20. Brooklyn!


A Note on MLK Day 2013: Last year was a biggie. January 21, 2013 marked both Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the inauguration for the second term of America's first black president.

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