On Thursday, January 19, six members of The Charlestown Coalition’s Turn it Around Youth Group led a lesson in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK) at the Boys and Girls Club. In it, members of the Club’s afterschool program, Friendship Club, learned about racism, segregation, the Civil Rights Movement, and MLK’s life through a simulation in which some of the group were given stickers and members then received fun erasers based on whether or not they had a sticker.
This activity was intended to help children understand that throughout our nation’s history, people have been treated as lesser, simply because of their race—a factor that should be as inconsequential as a sticker.
In order to help the children process the material, they were encouraged to express their feelings throughout the activity, as well as after. Some of the words they used to describe their reactions include “segregation separated people,” “sad, mad, unfair,” and “your race doesn’t mean you should be treated differently.”
Throughout, the kids were incredibly well-behaved and engaged.
Following the activity, one member of Turn it Around reviewed age-appropriate definitions for race, racism, segregation and another member of Turn it Around read Doreen Rappaport and Bryan Collier’s esteemed children’s book, Martin’s Big Words. The children then had a discussion about some of the words that MLK used to describe his feelings and generate change, as well as the power of peaceful resistance.
The participants were between 8-10. Younger Friendship Club members (5-7 year olds) simultaneously listened to Martin’s Big Words and completed an art project in which they drew and wrote their dreams for themselves on one side of a cloud, and their dreams for the world, their families, and/or Charlestown on the other.
All in all, the lesson was an extremely positive experience for Turn it Around members, Boys and Girls Club participants, and Coalition staff alike.
The six teen volunteers underwent two hours of training in racial justice and youth engagement in order to prepare for the activity. The Coalition hopes to use this experience as a “pilot” lesson to hopefully implement this curriculum in the local elementary schools as an annual Martin Luther King day activity. If anyone is interested in learning more, don’t hesitate to contact the Coalition’s Prevention Program Coordinator, Olivia Larkin at [email protected] or 617-726-6684 to learn more.