Martin Luther King Day is January 17, 2012. Teachers and others who work with children can throw an MLK birthday party to provide an educational and entertaining celebration that children will remember for a long time.
Martin Luther King Jr. was born on January 15, 1929 as a Baptist minister’s son in Atlanta, Georgia. He was born as Michael King Jr., named for his father. But after a trip to Germany where the Senior King learned about the Protestant leader Martin Luther, his father changed both his own and his son’s names to Martin Luther. He was quite an intelligent student, skipping several grades, entering Moorehouse College at the age of fifteen without a high school diploma, and earning his doctorate degree from Boston University in 1955.
King married Coretta Scott and together they had four children. He later became pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church and in 1955 became the leader of the first great non-violent African American protest in the United States. King helped organize protests, boycotts, and marches that led to the desegregation of Montgomery, Alabama’s bus system. Through his leadership, segregation laws in the South were declared illegal and he helped to begin the slow turn of the United States toward equality. King received the Nobel Peace Prize for his work in the U.S., but was assassinated on April 4, 1968.
To increase children’s interest in this holiday and the man that it honors, many teachers wish to do more than simply read a few books and discuss King’s accomplishments. Throwing a birthday party to remember this very important person in American history is a creative way to provide hands-on learning for children.
Teachers can use the nation of India and Ghandi’s work there as an extra learning experience. King learned much about non-violent protest from Ghandi. By studying the protests in India and those used by the freedom workers in America, children can learn that there are better alternatives than violence to change society. Using snacks at the party can help children remember the correlation between MLK and India. Samosas are a famous Indian snack that are perfect for a cold January day.
Since MLK was from the South, he probably preferred distinctively Southern food. Serving cornbread or biscuits with fried okra would bring to mind the Southern roots of this unforgettable historical figure. Last of all, many people report pecan pie as one of King’s favorite foods. Creating Pecan Pie Bars will aid in ease of serving since they are a simple snack that children can eat with their fingers.
Other activities abound for helping children remember the true reason for celebrating MLK Day. Some websites recommend creating collages, quilts, and timelines centered around the events occurring in the 1950’s and 1960’s. All of these hands-on party activities will reinforce the lessons typically taught during Black History Month. By throwing a party to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, children will remember how far our nation has come and understand how important equality is to the United States of America.