Upcoming MLK Jr. Day events
• Love-It Productions’ play, "With My Spiritual Eyes, I Can See": 7 p.m. today at Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church.
• Annual Leadership and Grand Marshal Breakfast: 9:30 a.m. Saturday at Dorchester Academy.
• Youth Explosion celebration: 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church.
• Annual city parade: 10 a.m. Monday in downtown Hinesville.
• Commemorative service: Noon on Monday at Bradwell Institute.
Think before acting. Live your dreams. Dare to try; dream sky-high.
Inspired by the legacy of civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr., these are messages of wisdom imparted by upper-elemen-
tary school students in Liberty County.
The messages were spread in posters, essays and coloring sheets with the theme "Our History, Our Choices, Our Future," according to Nicole Carter, a Waldo Pafford Elementary School fourth-grade teacher who is on the Liberty County MLK Observance Association Youth Board.
"Now that a lot of those who went through that time period are getting older, if they don’t pass on the information about what happened in the past, students or children today won’t be able to use that information to make better choices in their future," Carter said about the importance of the contest. "We don’t want anybody to go back to the way when things weren’t equal, so we have to keep sharing …. and just keep all of our success alive."
The contest, which has been held for about five years, is a catalyst for parents and teachers to introduce America’s segregated past and the progress of civil rights activists with young children, Carter said.
The level of detail used varies according to each grade. At younger ages, the discussion focuses on heroes and their actions to stand up for their beliefs, and teachers tell their students that, "We celebrate his birthday because he did something great for all of us."
"And later on, we tell them that there was a time in our history that we would not have an African-American teacher teaching students that were not African-American," she said.
Older students, who have learned more about the historical context of King and the civil rights movement, were asked to write essays. Ten middle-schoolers wrote 200- to 300-word pieces, and 10 high school students wrote 300- to 500-word essays in which they strived to describe connections between past, present and future.
Students in kindergarten, first and second grades entered about 200 coloring sheets with King’s image, while 24 students in third, fourth and fifth grades created posters to reflect the theme.
The posters depict messages of peace and equality, achievement for African-Americans and reflections on President Barack Obama.
But some students internalized the message on a more personal level, Carter added.
"From what I saw, people took different perspectives. … Some people took their past as how they didn’t feel like studying and how they decided to study, and now they’re making good grades," she said.
Three winners from each category will be named during the Youth Explosion celebration at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church, she said. The first-place winner will receive a trophy and a certificate, and second- and third-place winners will receive medals and certificates. All winners will receive an undisclosed cash prize.
At Joseph Martin Elementary School, physical education teacher Shirley Tuck is introducing the civil rights movement through a completely different platform: a fitness challenge.
The challenge calls on classes to walk to Atlanta — metaphorically.
Beginning in early February, students will have the option to walk laps around the school’s basketball court and track their laps. They’ll then convert laps into miles as they venture on a 243-mile one-way journey from Joseph Martin’s campus to the Coverdell Legislative Office Building.
Along the way, teachers will discuss the historical impacts of the civil rights movement and integrate lessons on history, legislation, mapping and math.
"We want the kids to know that there are people from the past who have made influences in today’s society to make it possible for them to actually achieve their own dreams," JME Assistant Principal Kathy Moody said. "What Martin Luther King did was to make it so that kids, or adults, or many people could achieve their goals."