Students honor MLK with actionStudents at Northern Lights Elementary School took Martin Luther King Jr.’s challenge to heart this fall.
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
Students at Northern Lights Elementary School took Martin Luther King Jr.’s challenge to heart this fall.
“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’” the famed civil rights leader said. The children in grades 3-5 answered his question with essays and art.
“I could shovel snow and pick up leaves for neighbors,” said fourth-grader Hannah Drake. Her classmate Shyla Wickham offered to create recycling signs for businesses or walk a neighbor’s dog. Picking up garbage and participating in the annual Night Without a Home sleep-out would help, said Derrion Allen, 9.
The essay contest took place around Thanksgiving while the students were already collecting change for the victims of Hurricane Sandy.
“It was a great opportunity for kids to really reflect on Dr. King’s teachings,” said fourth-grade teacher Erika Suo. All 23 of her students completed an essay.
Students will share their work Jan. 21 during a communitywide Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service and Celebration at the school, 1201 N. 28th St. Everyone is encouraged to attend.
“Come and hear their ideas” for how kids and adults can work together to help the community, Suo said.
“Dr. King Day is the only federal holiday observed as ‘a day on, not a day off,’” said Katelyn Baumann, an Americorps VISTA worker at the University of Wisconsin-Superior who is organizing the event. “It is extremely important to honor the legacy of Dr. King through service to our community.”
Throughout the day, volunteers will read books about King in 36 classrooms at Northern Lights. Participation was optional, said Assistant Principal Mary Anderson-Petroske, but every single teacher chose to take part.
At 1:30 p.m., the public is invited to stop by Northern Lights as winners read their essays and display their art. The event will include a visit by Buzz, the Yellowjacket mascot, a welcome by District Administrator Janna Stevens, music by students under the direction of Leslie Black and the unveiling of the first Little Blue Bookshelf in Douglas County.
The Superior Sunrise Rotary and Superior Kiwanis donated money to purchase age-appropriate books on Martin Luther King Jr. for the event — two books will be left in each classroom.
Many Kiwanis members as well as UWS students and staff and even a Swiss exchange student volunteered to read to classes.
“The teachers really appreciate the legwork that’s being done in order to connect the community with the school,” Anderson-Petroske said. Although the celebration is concentrated at Northern Lights this year, Baumann said she hopes to include the entire Superior school district in 2014.
Teachers wove the celebration and book reading into their core standards, Anderson-Petroske said. When Northern Lights students were asked to put King’s legacy to work today, they got excited. The question sparked character education at a very deep level and prompted good thinking by students.
“It brought it back to them; not just what did he do, but what can you do,” Anderson-Petroske said.
“They took a lot of pride in it,” Suo said.
Being kind to and accepting of others is the root of their message, kids said. Hannah said it is important to include everyone when you’re playing a game and to “fill the buckets” of others with smiles or a friendly “Hi.”
The Northern Lights celebration is one of a number of local events in honor of King.
A free community breakfast takes place at 7 a.m. Jan. 21 at First United Methodist Church, 230 E. Skyline Parkway, Duluth. A march is planned at 10 a.m. in Duluth the same day, with marchers gathering at 9:45 a.m. at Washington Center. They march to the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center for a community viewing of the presidential inauguration with a rally to follow. There is also a showing of the movie “At the River I Stand” at 6 p.m. at the Duluth Labor Temple, 2002 London Road. A complete listing of local Martin Luther King Jr. celebrations is available online at http://www.mlk-duluth.org/.
The Little Blue Bookshelf program, formed by Leadership Superior-Douglas County members in conjunction with the United Way of Superior-Douglas County, aims to provide shelves full of donated children’s books at various locations in Superior. Anyone can pick out a book to read or take home. Following the unveiling of the first shelf at Northern Lights, more will be placed. Donations are still being taken at about a dozen sites in Superior. For more information, go to https://sites.google.com/