Schools tie holiday with history

Students learn about King on observed birthday

— Instead of observing Martin Luther King Jr. Day with staff instructions and meetings, students and teachers in the Steamboat Springs School District will be in the classroom this year receiving a small dose of history from one of the nation's most prominent civil rights leaders.

For about the past five years, the school district always has allowed students a day off while teachers prepare quarter grades and have teacher-to-teacher work sessions.

But because the first Monday after the last day of the quarter fell on Jan. 14 and not Jan. 21, students are allowed back in the classroom to learn about the man who had a dream for the people of the world.

Today marks the 73rd anniversary of King's observed birthday.

Tim Bishop, Steamboat Springs Middle School principal, said he was searching for a video of King's "I Have a Dream" speech to play during the beginning of school today.

King's legendary speech was delivered at the "March on Washington" in 1963 at the Lincoln Memorial.

Although the middle school will not have an assembly, Bishop said it's convenient that King's day of observance falls on the beginning of the civil rights unit in eighth-grade American history classes.

"In a community that's predominantly Caucasian, we want to expose students to what else is out there," Bishop said. "We're just trying to raise awareness."

After the speech, Bishop said teachers can talk with their students about who King was, what he stood for and what he did for the nation. Eighth-grade students will graze issues such as nonviolent protests, civil disobedience and the civil rights movement led by African Americans in the 1960s.

King was a leader in the civil rights movement, traveling thousands of miles delivering speeches on equality among human beings of all races and ethnicities.

Mike Knezevich, Steamboat Springs High School assistant principal, said the high school will not do anything formally; however, King's message lives on in his eyes.

"I hope that as a school and as a district we continue to promote diversity. That's something we live with every day and that's the message that Dr. King left us," Knezevich said.

Individual teachers at the high school will pay tribute to King through history lessons, writing exercises and reflections of his dreams.

Elementary schools also will have activities and readings recognizing King, who was assassinated April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tenn., by James Earl Ray. King's birthday became a national day of observance in 1986.

Bishop said he thinks the events of Sept. 11 have taught children to be more tolerant of racial and ethnic diversity.

"It made students a little less stereotypical about certain groups of people. We learned that you can't blame all of Afghanistan that it's only a small group of radicals," Bishop said. "I think (King's recognition) will help with this idea."

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