Monday, January 16, 2012

Freedom Summer: We're Different on the Outside but not on the Inside!

I will be honest.  Martin Luther King Day came up on me so quickly I didn't even have a chance to think about "planning" anything for it.  However, his work was important, and I want my children to appreciate that.  Elliott has been somewhat interested in skin color lately.  For instance, he asks why we're called "white" when our skin isn't really white.  I am from metro-Atlanta and my brother is biracial, so I grew up immersed in a completely different world than what Elliott sees.  Although our family vacations have exposed him to diversity, I always look for ways to reinforce the knowledge that all people are created equal, because we live in a very rural area with virtually no racial or ethnic diversity of any kind, and I think it's important he knows that just because people here are "the same" that isn't the case everywhere else.

I don't happen to have any books on Martin Luther King, but then I remembered a book I just found at goodwill about a week ago:  Freedom Summer by Deborah Wiles.  What a blessing to find it when I did, because it lead right into this quick-spun lesson.

I started by giving Elliott a basic overview of how people used to treat others differently because they looked different, and I told him a little about who Martin Luther King was and how he was brave enough to speak out to try to change people's hearts and make things equal for everyone.  Just enough for a five year old to understand.

Then we read Freedom Summer.  It tells the story of a young white boy in a small southern town and his best friend.  The boys love to do everything together and they are just alike...except for their skin color.  The story takes place during the summer of 1964, and shows how they handle the concept of integration in their own childlike ways.

I loved the book.  I cried when reading it out loud to Elliott.  I felt the pain of this little boy, and I don't ever want my children to experience, or even witness, that kind of pain.  It might look like a simple picture book, but it was heartfelt, and the author does an amazing job at capturing the emotions of the time and bringing that era of history into perspective for a child.

After reading the book, I asked Elliott how it made him feel.  He said it made him sad that people who were different weren't supposed to do things together.

Then we did an art activity.  I happened to come across this activity Celebrating Skin Color with Paint and it was perfect for today.

We started by mixing red and blue to make purple.

Then we mixed in yellow to make it a "skin" color.

He decided it was a little too dark to match our skin color, so we lightened it up with white.  I wasn't too concerned with making it an exact match to our skin color, but I did mix up my own paint in a slightly different shade so I could later show him the subtle differences.

We used a stencil to trace circles for faces...

...but Elliott, being Elliott, wasn't interested in painting inside the lines.  We had four circles total, two in each shade, so when the paint dried we cut them out and I asked him to draw faces on them and glue them to another piece of paper.

I'm not sure why he glued them on the outer edges of the paper, but we still might go back and make them whole people.
It's hard to see the two different shades in the photo, but we talked about how the skin tones were different even though they started out as the same colors of paint.  We then talked about how our pictures were like real people...we are all created the same on the inside, but we look different on the outside.

I wasn't sure how much he absorbed from the lesson, until I heard him "singing" a song he made up...

"We're different on the outside...but not on the INSIDE!"

Shibley Smiles

Also Linked Up:  Teach me TuesdayAfterschool Blog Hop, Show and Tell, It's Playtime, stART, Link&Learn


  1. Hi there! I'm visiting from Teach Me Tuesday linky party!

    You certainly did fabulous job with this lesson not having it planned or anything. :-) Thanks for sharing!

  2. This is a fabulous MLKJ lesson! We also had an impromptu lesson at our house. ;) Thank you so much for linking up at Teach Me Tuesday--this is perfect!! ;)

  3. Maybe they are all seated around a blue table? I'm a new follower!

  4. I like your lesson. I told Liam that it was MLK day when we were doing our calendar time, but I didn't know what to say beyond that.

  5. This is a very clever lesson. Visiting from Afterschool.

  6. I love this lesson and the book! What a great way to talk about challenging subject. I pinned this post.

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