On January 18, students at Ross School honored Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., discussing his life and legacy in class and participating in activities to celebrate the man who changed the course of civil rights in the United States.
At the Lower School campus, the day began with classroom discussions about Dr. King, with grades 4–6 participating in social action workshops led by Assistant Head of Lower School Bryan Rosenberg. Students in pre-nursery, nursery, and pre-kindergarten created a “Rainbow Flower of Diversity,” in which the petals of the flower, in the form of different-colored handprints from each student, encircled a poem focusing on diversity. Students in kindergarten through grade 3 made white doves of peace and a large dream catcher to commemorate Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Students and teachers then gathered in the Multi-Purpose Room for a beautiful performance by the Genesis Gospel Choir, who sang “Oh, Happy Day,“ “Encourage My Soul,” and “I’m So Glad.” The students also listened to Dr. King’s famed speech and participated in a discussion with Deacon Kenneth Brown about the civil rights movement and “paying it forward.”
“There is nothing more important than to teach children about compassion and empathy,” said Jeanette Tyndall, head of Lower School. “Dr. King said, ‘We fail to get along because we fear each other, and we fear each other because we don’t know each other.’ We are helping our children develop an understanding about the world beyond themselves and what it means to be a global citizen and to walk in the shoes of others, and to fully appreciate their individual and collective responsibilities to help others and make a difference in the world.”
After a silent lunch, during which teachers and staff read books about Dr. King, the students participated in a Peaceful Protest March across the campus, singing “We Shall Overcome.” Back in the MPR, events concluded with a moving candlelight ceremony in which students affirmed their declarations for social action and joined voices in an uplifting rendition of “This Little Light of Mine.”
At the Upper School, teachers and students engaged in classroom discussions about Dr. King’s legacy, civil rights, and race relations. At a community meeting in the afternoon, Lawrence Alexander, co-director of College Counseling, addressed the students, challenging them to follow Dr. King’s example and have the “dangerous thought” that we should all be responsible for and mindful of each other, especially since they have the unique opportunity to learn in a global classroom. He concluded, “You are responsible for the person next to you. If I’m responsible for you, and you’re responsible for me, then we’re all in a better place.”
Eighth grade Cultural History teacher Mark Tompkins followed with a talk urging students to honor Dr. King through service, saying, “When we serve that which we truly love, the action part of service is the presence of the divine on Earth.” Mark then turned the stage over to Cultural History teacher Chrissie Schlesinger and Dean of Performing Arts Adam Judd, who wrapped up the meeting with a wide variety of musical selections with their roots in African American culture. The songs ranged from blues to jazz to R&B to rap to hiphop, at times even inspiring the listening students to clap along with the groove.
Thank you to all of the speakers and leaders and visitors who helped Ross School students pay tribute to the legendary Dr. Martin Luther King.