Riley Langs, a fifth-grade student at Howard Elementary School, recently shared with his class a slideshow presentation about Martin Luther King Jr.’s iconic “I Had a Dream Speech.”
Riley’s presentation, and those of her classmates’, were part of the school’s curriculum to teach students about the civil rights leader’s role in history, leading up to the holiday that bears his name.
Riley’s teacher, Amber Buchanan, said studying about King and the civil rights movement is important for several reasons — especially with young children.
“The students get to learn about a brave man who stood up for what he believed in,” she said. “This shows the students that everyone can make a difference and stand up for their beliefs in a peaceful way.”
She said she also tries to highlight in class King’s “determination and passion.”
“This is a great example to show the students that if they are determined and passionate they can accomplish difficult tasks,” Buchanan said. “I feel it is greatly important for the students to learn about the history of the civil rights movement and the leaders who stood up for the rights of all people.”
This year, Buchanan’s students learned about King by creating Google Slide presentations.
“This was a great way for the students to learn about a courageous leader as well as incorporate technology,” Buchanan said.
Educating elementary students about King and the civil rights movement can set a foundation for future discussion on the topic.
Jackie Saylor, State College Area High School social studies teacher and department coordinator, said students engage in more in-depth discussions about issues of discrimination, free speech and equality — some of which ties into the Constitution.
Saylor said social studies teachers at State High teach about King to help students understand “the struggles and the challenges of individuals and groups throughout history.”
“It is also important for students to learn about the rights and freedoms that are afforded by the Constitution,” she said. “More important is that we are teaching about civil liberties throughout our curriculum and throughout the school year.”