by Megan Annis
Stepping to the front of the class, with 50 some pairs of youthful, curious eyes tracking me, I’ll admit I was a bit nervous. I haven’t had a lot of experience working with children, especially a classroom packed full of 3rd graders. However, as I began to read My Brother Martin, a story about the life of MLK Jr., my nervousness faded as I saw each pair of curious eyes settle in, ready to listen and learn.
There was a unison of giggles when the 3rd graders learned that a young MLK liked to swing from the ceiling fan, as well as bewildered gasps when they found out that, as an adult, he’d been jailed more than 30 times. After finishing the story, students got the opportunity to share something they admired about MLK Jr. One student mentioned how brave he was for going to jail that many times when he wasn’t even doing anything wrong. Another student, in an impressive direct quote, admired his declaration that “hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”
All of this came about through MLK Day of Service, a day in which members of Energy Corps in Butte teamed up with Read for Peace. Read for Peace is an initiative that pairs elementary school classrooms with volunteers like myself to read a book about MLK Jr. Each selected book promotes MLK’s message of peace and equality through colorful illustrations and an engaging storyline.
The second part of Read for Peace involved leading students through a hands-on activity to further promote MLK Jr’s ideas. In my classroom, each student got to write their own Peace Poem. This activity gave students an opportunity to express their feelings about peace in a way that made sense to them.
Some students set right off, while others needed a little help thinking of ideas. I prompted those students to think about things that make them happy, and reminded them there were no wrong answers in poetry. I wasn’t disappointed when students, standing at the front of the classroom, shared lines like “Peace is like rainbows” and “Peace is like a puppy and a kitten combined”.
It was the last line of their poems, however, that really showed each student’s grasp on the idea of peace and of MLK’s message; “Peace is always kind”, “Peace is always love”, and my favorite, “Peace is always for everyone”.
Megan Annis holds a bachelor’s degree in Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology with a minor in Global Environmental Sustainability from Colorado State University. This is Megan’s third AmeriCorps program. Previously she worked on a trail crew and with a different Energy Corps, both located in Colorado. Megan joined Energy Corps in November 2017 and will serve at the National Center for Appropriate Technology in Butte as a Sustainability Management Educator. She will be researching aspects of community sustainability and identifying key components of successful programs in order to create a template for a community sustainability report that can be utilized by Montana municipalities.