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Students schooled in King’s legacy

John HartIn Julie Wagner's class for fourth and fifth grades at the Highland Oaks School, a magnet school off Highway 174, students borrowed from Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" speech. The students posted the words on clouds and hung them on the classroom wall. Fourth-grader Wade Harris and fifth-grader Alicia Parker survey the project.
ALL | GrassValleyArchive

Students aren’t in school today, but they left Friday with lessons about Civil Rights leader Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Older students learned about the rough stuff in the Baptist minister’s life, which ended in a 1968 assassination.

Young students learned what kind of a person King was, which reinforced their lessons in character training.



Sixth-graders at Lyman Gilmore School in Grass Valley watched a video that included footage of the 1963 march on Birmingham, in which King was arrested.

Students at Nevada City’s Gold Run School learned King “exemplified character traits like kindness, perseverance, friendliness, self-control and respect,” said Holly Hermansen, principal of the K-2 school.




All seven students at Washington School – two first-graders, one sixth grader, one seventh-grader and three eighth-graders – will work this week on a photo journal about the civil rights movement, their teacher, Pete Milano, said.

Washington School is what the state terms a “necessary small school.”

“Kids are terribly uninformed of contemporary history,” Milano said. “I’m amazed at how little they know.”

Milano said his students will “leap right back into the 1960s and learn what Kennedy tried to do and what LBJ really did do.” They’ll learn that King was “The man who really got the nation to focus on the need for equal opportunity.”

Lyman Gilmore sixth-graders last week first wrote what they knew about King, teacher Sheralyn Ilg said.

“Most of them didn’t know much,” Ilg said. Students knew King was assassinated and they knew he was an African-American, she said.

Watching the CBS-Fox News videotape “Our Friend Martin,” that included the 1963 march on Birmingham, Ala. and King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington, D.C., students were “appalled at the scenes of fire hoses being turned on protesters,” Ilg said.

Sixth-graders interviewed their parents about their memories of King, she said.

“Their parents said ‘Yes, his life was important. Yes, they remember the day he was assassinated. Yes, they think he was a famous man who should have a holiday named after him, and yes, life is better because of him,’ ” Ilg said about the former pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist church in Montgomery, Ala. who went to India to study non-violence with Mohandas Gandhi.

“There was some controversy about him among people who were adults at the time; that didn’t come up this year,” Ilg said.

Lyman Gilmore students were asked to write about “the high points on his life and how life would have been without him,” Ilg said about the minister called “Dr. King” after he received a doctorate in 1955 from Boston University.

Magnolia School students also learned about King’s winning the Nobel Peace Prize and why, said sixth-grade teacher Kelly Bayne.

Joelle Lake’s sixth through eighth grade students at Pleasant Valley School were asked to write a paper comparing the violent approach of Malcolm X in the Civil Rights battle with King’s peaceful approach.

Students also wrote answers to questions like “If you could talk to Dr. Martin Luther King, what would you say?” and “Is discrimination part of our life today?”

Fourth-graders and fifth-graders at Pleasant Valley School were “working hard doing a picture essay of King’s life,” principal Clint Johnson said.

“They really do enjoy learning about why we’re out of school,” Ilg said.


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