Helping Children to Celebrate & Appreciate Differences in Honor of Martin Luther King Day
Martin Luther King Day always takes me back to my student teaching experience.
I taught 2nd graders and I had them gathered around me on the rug. It was near Martin Luther Kind day, and we were discussing how people are different. I said something like, “Some people have white skin, some people have dark skin…..” Then a second grader shouted out: “Yeah, and some people have red dots all over their face; just like you!”
Ugh. She was right! I was in the middle of the most stressful time of my life to date and the doctor diagnosed my zits as “stress induced adult acne”. (But how do I explain the large, painful zit on my chin right now as I type this?) I think I replied, “Yes, and some people even have red dots on their face.”
Kids often blurt out inappropriate, albeit innocent, words. Now this may never change, but I think we can still teach them some manners when it comes to dealing with people that are different than us. We want to teach them tolerance, acceptance and appreciation for differences in the world.
Here is a lesson to do just that:
Attention Getter: I emptied a bag of jelly beans into a bowl.
Then I walked around the family and had them choose a jellybean. Each person carefully considered which jelly bean to pick. My youngest daughter took one and then changed her mind for the jellybean she liked better. I was happy to let them take as long as they wanted, for their deliberation played into my object lesson all the more.
Lesson: I talked about what I noticed as I passed out jellybeans. Then I read them this poem (author unknown):
Wouldn’t it be nice
If we looked at people
and jelly beans and liked them all?
And didn’t just pick out the pretty or smart people
or red or black jelly beans
But loved them all for what they are!
Discussion: We talked about the jellybean poem and what it means and how it relates to Martin Luther King Day. Here are some questions to ask: How are people different than us? Why are there so many different people? How should we treat others that are different than us? What do you do when you notice someone that is different than you?
Manner: When you see someone different than you don’t point, don’t yell, and don’t stare. These guidelines were all inspired by son. We were standing in the order line at In-and-Out when he turned around, pointed his finger up at the guy’s face behind us, and yelled, “Look mom! That guy’s from China!” (or he has earrings or she has a mohawk, etc. Insert whatever difference you want. I’ve been through this a few times.) We discussed how it is okay to ‘notice’ differences, but just don’t judge them or point them out at that moment. We don’t want to make others feel uncomfortable or singled out.
Quote: I read this quote from one of our religious leaders (Gordon B. Hinckley): “We must never forget that we live in a world of great diversity. The people of the earth are all our Father’s children and are of many and varied religious persuasions. We must cultivate tolerance and appreciation and respect one another.”
Activity: We discussed things that make us different than others. (I like Mondays. My husband is tall. My daughter has a unique name, etc.) You could have older kids write a list down of 5-10 things that make them different. We discussed everyone’s differences and how it makes the family better. And how people’s differences in the world make the world better.
Book: We read the book “People” by Peter Spier. My kids loved the pictures and I would recommend buying it. There is so much to see in it that kids could browse it over and over again.
We ate the jelly beans as I read the story (I picked the red ones.)