Wingra School students march to honor MLK
It wasn’t an ordinary field trip when Wingra School students headed to the state Capitol.
The students, who didn’t have school on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, traveled Downtown the next day to honor the slain civil rights leader. They stood on the steps facing Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to hear some remarks by their head of school, Debbie Millon.
Then they walked around the Capitol behind a banner that read “Wingra’s March for MLK” and displayed signs they had made that emulated King’s and the school’s shared vision of working for social justice.
“I’m not really here to protest anything. We’re here more to honor Martin Luther King and his values,” said seventh-grader Sarah Ross.
Seventh-grader Margaret Stenger said one of the values King wanted to spread was peace.
Sixth-grader Daniel Martin, who held up a sign with the words “let freedom ring” and a drawing of the Liberty Bell, said he hoped anyone who saw the group would be inspired to do something to help others.
“I was hoping people would take it in and just think about what (King’s) done and how it’s affected everyone,” said eighth-grader Nate Hughes.
The idea for the march started last spring when Wingra looked at how the school could commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The staff contemplated being open so the school could join together to do something as a community but realized many families use that day off as a service day, Millon said.
The march was conceived as a chance not to protest, but instead to bring forth King’s vision, she said.
“We feel our vision of a just world aligns with MLK’s vision,” Millon said.
The march was preceded by students studying King’s “Six Principles of Nonviolence” and reading various age-appropriate accounts of the Civil Rights Movement. Some of the older students also looked at the designs of protest banners, posters and artwork that have been used in support of the movement throughout the years. Wingra had a school-wide meeting to sing about peace and break into smaller mixed-age groups to talk about the ways in which the Civil Rights Movement continues today.
“We thought as a social justice school, as a democratic school … we want to teach kids democracy and we also want them to practice,” said Sagan Pizzingrilli, who teaches students ages 11 to 14 and was on the committee to organize the activity.
Pizzingrilli, who said the activity was a way to honor King and his work, said it seemed appropriate to have the kids take their message to the Capitol because it is the center of the city and the government and because many of King’s civil rights marches ended at such official locations.
Wingra, which has the independence and flexibility of a private school, infuses social justice in the curriculum in part by its selection of materials, Millon said.
“There is a lot of attention devoted to what this looks like throughout the day,” she said.
Seventh-grader Rebecca Ring said she has attended Wingra since kindergarten so she has been exposed to social justice her “whole life” and it’s something she values.
The purpose of the march wasn’t lost on first-grader Kira Francis, who said it was “to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day and just to show other people how to act and stuff.”
“A person should be judged on the content of their character and not their skin,” said third-grader Celine Huttleston, paraphrasing a quote by King.
Seventh-grader Harper Blake-Horst said she saw people taking pictures and got high fives.
“People are actually seeing it,” Rebecca said. “That feels really good.”