Never too young to learn about diversity

January 23, 2019 GMT

MICHIGAN CITY – Children gathered at the Michigan City Public Library Monday to celebrate the birthday of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Students and staff from Purdue University Northwest donated supplies and volunteered their time to engage the kids in various crafts and activities aimed at teaching them about King, diversity and inclusion.

“We have several students who have taken the initiative to come here on their day off to help teach some different concepts regarding the role Martin Luther King had in that,” said Shannon O’Brien, literacy professor at PNW.

The service learning initiative was spread throughout the library’s Youth Services Department, where older children clipped words and images from magazines to create collages honoring King; constructed “dream clouds” touting their own dreams of hope and peace; and fashioned liberty bells from plastic cups and globes from popsicle sticks.

Children of all ages were introduced to “The Case for Loving” – a book about a famous interracial marriage from the 1950s.

They also made birthday cakes and sang “Happy Birthday” to King; created peace plants by tracing their hands on different flesh-toned colors of construction paper; and talked about diversity by comparing multi-colored beans to the colors of their skin.

“We’ve got several activities – the bean activity where they separate them and bring all the colors back together to show that we are one. We should be for each other and we should be modeling peace and working together just like this,” O’Brien said.

“I’m pretty impressed with the teachers that we have out here who understand that, and get that, and want to be a part of that,” she said.

“And hopefully, for some of them that are newer in the program, this will be what they need to realize how important it is for them to continue this type of service work in a variety of settings.”