Flower Hill Primary School teachers and students recently participated in a New York State Education Department initiative that seeks to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. while at the same time educating youngsters about his life and work.
Each year, the New York State Education Department honors Dr. King’s memory by inviting schools to submit student art and essays that reflect Dr. King’s teaching. Schools submit original artwork illustrating Dr. King’s Six Principles and Steps of Nonviolence or essays celebrating the great American’s birthday.
“Dr. King taught us that these techniques should be embraced as a lifestyle,” Flower Hill Principal Lucia Laguarda said.
The purpose of the state initiative, which Flower Hill signed onto is:
• To understand that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day commemorates the birthday of Dr. King and reminds all Americans of his dreams and goals for this nation
• To have the opportunity to take part in the celebration of Dr. King’s birthday
• To reflect on ways to celebrate Dr. King’s birthday and legacy in everyday life
• To have the opportunity to learn about the social, political and economic factors that contributed to the civil rights movement
• To learn about the philosophy of nonviolence as practiced by Dr. King and to understand its relevance for today’s society
• To appreciate and respect the contributions and rights of others without regard to the similarities or differences they may present
Teachers Brenda McManus and Jaime Jerome and teacher aide Veronica Perez-Grant and the second graders in their classroom were excited to fine such an opportunity to explore Dr. King’s legacy. The youngsters were eager to learn about these principles and act upon them.
“We began with the principles that students are faced with each day,” Ms. McManus said. “Nonviolence seeks to win friendship and understanding. Nonviolence chooses love instead of hate.”
“Well, that is practiced every day,” one of the second graders said. “And we are not allowed to use the word hate in this classroom.”
Students were eager to enter their work into the exhibit at the Empire State Plaza in Albany. The youngsters decided on their own what branch of literature or type of artwork they wanted to submit.
“This was a wonderful opportunity to honor Dr. King and his legacy of nonviolent protest and to help prepare the upcoming generation to achieve its full potential,” Ms. Jerome said.
The Flower Hill faculty and staff members believe that “teaching about social justice and nonviolence serves as a guide to building understanding and unity, which is as important now as ever.”