MLK: Learning the legacy

At school, students learn about injustice and intolerance, but now it’s academic, not experience


Saturday, January 19, 2008 7:41 PM CST

NEAL CARDIN/The News-Enterprise
Morningside Elementary School second-grader Katelin Moore writes her dreams for class, school and community.

HARDIN COUNTY — It isn’t often teachers like it when students don’t understand the lesson that’s being taught. But Carol Garabato knows her kindergarten class at Morningside Elementary School doesn’t fully comprehend her lessons on Martin Luther King Jr., and she’s OK with that.

Local elementary schools used the week leading up to Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday to teach lessons about the civil rights leader. Stories, activities and contests are many of the ways students are learning about King.

Garabato uses the week before the holiday not only to teach about King, but about the civil rights movement. She reads stories about King to her class and tells them her memories of growing up in the segregated South, to show them how life has changed.

“I’m able to bring in some experiences I’ve had,” she said.

But it’s difficult for her 5- and 6-year-old students to understand exactly what King did, when they don’t fully comprehend race and prejudice, she said.

Garabato uses one activity where students put faces of people in the windows of a bus, drawing in the experience of Rosa Parks and the issue of bus segregation. The outcome of the activity is, of course, to have different races of people together on the bus, but her students don’t quite grasp how the faces differ at all.

“I think it will always be that way now,” she said.
Amy Truitt teaches first and second grades at Morningside, and uses a lot of stories to teach lessons on King. She discusses his “I Have a Dream” speech, and tells her students about his childhood, since that’s what they’ll relate to most, she said.

Truitt said her students don’t understand why segregation occurred. Their reaction is to talk about its unfairness.

“It’s always refreshing to know they get upset when people aren’t treated fairly,” she said.

Students in Stephanie Gray’s second and third-grade class at New Highland Elementary School wrote paragraphs and drew pictures. Gray asked them to write what they learned about King after she read them a book about him.

At Lakewood Elementary School, art teacher Joseph Cecil was able to work in a lesson on the upcoming holiday in his class, through a Martin Luther King, Jr. visual art contest. Students who entered received certificates from Gov. Steve Beshear for their participation, and a winner will be announced in February, Cecil said.

Sarah Sarver, Olivia Helm and Hayley Lampton, second-graders, and Blayne Wittenback and Whitney Peters, first-graders, received certificates. The contest involved drawing King or something that represents what he did, Sarver said.

Sarver said Cecil read part of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech in class.

“I learned what his dream was about,” Lampton said.

Wittenback drew several pictures. One included King, but one was a picture of the world, she said.

“I drew the whole entire world, because I knew he wanted to change the world,” she said.

Kelly Richardson can be reached at 505-1740, or at

This story, written by Kelly Richardson, was provided to One Knox courtesy of The News Enterprise. Read more stories from The News Enterprise at