Students learn the importance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day

January 16, 2006|by KAREN HANNA

While other students throughout the Tri-State area celebrate the life of Martin Luther King Jr. by sleeping in over a three-day weekend, students in the Greencastle-Antrim School District will be in class.

Today is the second time this year the Pennsylvania school district has marked a holiday by staying open, high school Principal Jack E. Appleby said. The first time - Veterans Day - school staff noticed students seemed to gain a better understanding of the holiday, Appleby said Thursday.

"Maybe more was learned from Veterans Day by being in school than from being out of school, and we anticipate that on Martin Luther King Day," Appleby said.


While students normally might use the day to sleep late, Greencastle-Antrim Elementary School Principal Robert Crider said today they will be taking part in read-alouds about Martin Luther King Jr. and writing their own speeches.

"Our board thought that it was meaningful to be in (school) and learn about the topic, as opposed to at home, and not learning - maybe not learning," Crider said.

Other schools in the area will mark the holiday with a day off, but that does not mean students will miss out on learning about the civil rights leader, teachers and administrators said.

"In all schools, it's always touched on," said Jill Burkhart, a Washington County Public Schools supervisor of elementary English/language arts and social studies. "People talk about it. People talk about the significance of it."

At Marlowe Elementary School in Berkeley County, W.Va., school counselor Ange Joel said art students will be making posters to honor King. Kindergartners will make doves out of paper, first-graders will read about King and second-graders will write about their own dreams and create a timeline of King's life, Joel said.

Bester Elementary School fourth-grade teacher Kris McGee, who has worked on lesson plans for the county school system dealing with black history, said her students are researching famous people, including black leaders such as King and Thurgood Marshall, for a project due at the end of next month.

As part of the biography project, students say what they know about the person they are researching, what they think they know about the person they are researching and what they want to learn, McGee said.

The holiday should not be the only inspiration for learning about King and other black leaders, McGee said.

"There are so many opportunities for us to talk about these things ... that really for me to talk about in isolation, really, these teachers talk about these things all the time," McGee said.

Staff writer Pepper Ballard contributed to this story.

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