Moosup students learn about MLK, Jr.

By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Plainfield - posted Mon., Jan. 28, 2013
Olivia Jendrewski and Alex Gaathje shared their dreams with their classmates. Photos by D. Coffey.
Olivia Jendrewski and Alex Gaathje shared their dreams with their classmates. Photos by D. Coffey.

Twenty second-graders gathered around teacher Kristen Carlage in Room 104 at Moosup Elementary School. She held up a picture book about Martin Luther King, Jr., part of a lesson plan based on the contributions of the American civil rights leader. She’d been discussing King in class, paying particular attention to his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

“Think back to his dream,” Carlage said. “He fought for his dream and it came true. What is the word that describes someone who never gives up?”

“Determined,” the students said in chorus.

“What was his dream?” she asked.

That his children would play with other children, a girl said. That boys and girls would be sisters and brothers, a boy said.

Days before, Carlage had asked the students to write out their own dreams for the future and how they might reach them. She had corrected grammar and spelling mistakes. She had written in comments on the margins of their papers, praising their ideas and asking them why their dreams were important.

“When you wrote about your dreams, you really thought about it,” Carlage said. “Now I want you to copy your work over on clean sheets of paper.”

The students got to work. Olivia Jendrewski's dream was that people were more careful with what they said. “People should think about what they say before they say it,” she said, “because they can be mean.”

For Alex Gaathje, it was for people to read more books. “I just want people to get smarter,” he said. “They need to be smarter so they have a better life.”

Maddux Gibson's dream was to keep the world clean. “I always notice there is trash. This is not healthy,” he wrote. “People could get hurt. Trash isn't healthy for animals. I could help by picking up trash.” He drew a picture of him and his mom picking up trash together.

“It might not be safe to pick up something with our bare hands, right?” Carlage said, sensing a teaching moment. “What might we want to put on our hands before touching any trash? Rubber gloves, right? Or you can ask your mom and dad for help.”

One student said his dream was that there were no guns. “I want people to be safe,” he said.

Carlage said, “Yes. Be like Martin Luther King, Jr. He fought with his words, not with his fists.”

Some people need to be kinder and more respectful, one boy said.

“Does anyone ever hear words that aren’t kind?” Carlage asked. All the kids raised their hands.

Lyric Gotay’s dream was that all people have enough food to eat and a home to live in, because some people don’t have either. “I can donate cereal and canned goods,” she said.

Not every student got a chance to tell the class their dreams. Carlage promised them an opportunity the next day. It was her job to keep them on schedule, to train their minds to the tasks at hand. Their dreams required it. So she made them put their folders away. Two girls and two boys led the class in exercises, then it was on to math.

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