Celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

How students can commit to helping others through the words of Dr. King.

January 16, 2015
Cathie Gillner
Classroom teacher
Dorseyville Middle School
Pittsburgh, PA
CATEGORIES Students, In the Classroom

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. challenged people to commit to "doing and helping." He said, "Life's most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?"

January 19, 2015, is the perfect day to ask students to participate in a day of service. This is the only federal holiday observed as a national day of service. The cold weather and lack of daylight can make community service projects less appealing this time of year, so it's important to remember that community service can take various forms.

Combining service projects with technology allows students to understand that community service can become an integral part of their lifestyle. Many websites and apps lend themselves to helping others. I've come up with some technology-based service projects, classified into three categories: honoring veterans, giving back to others, and reporting and writing.  

To begin the project, guide your students through the following exercises:

  • Brainstorm and develop a plan. Have students collaborate in groups and share ideas, then discuss collectively as a class.
  • Set goals and a timeline. Have students set a goal on how they will serve and carry out this plan. Create a timeline, and display timelines in the classroom.
  • Think about the impact of the project. Who will the project impact? And in what ways will it, or could it, impact them?

The following websites and apps are a great way to mix tech and service:

Honoring Veterans
Operation Gratitude lets students write letters to veterans and current military.

Giving Back to Others helps students find service projects in their local community or nearby.

The MLK Day of Service is a part of United We Serve, the President's national call to service initiative. It calls for Americans to work together and provide solutions. Kids can enter contests and also find service projects in their community.

Free Rice by the World Food Program is a quiz site that donates grains of rice to needy countries when kids answer questions correctly.

Reporting and Writing
Curating Change features women from all parts of the globe who are changing the world. Kids can read their stories and teach others about gender equality.

Your Commonwealth is an international site created by adolescents who are interested in addressing global concerns such as injustice, poverty, and the environment. Students can use this site to inspire others about their own community issues.

Roadtrip Nation offers a series of lessons and short videos that empower students to explore opportunities for their futures. Kids can then use this information to inspire other community members.

ePals is a website that connects K-12 classrooms in more than 200 countries to share content and ideas and collaborate on projects. Students could connect with other students and share their service projects.

Skype in the Classroom allows for students to connect with other classrooms and experts. Kids could find an endless list of lessons/experts to share with their community.

Photo: "Dr. Martin Luther King speaking against war in Vietnam, St. Paul Campus, University of Minnesota" by Minnesota Historical Society. Used under a CC BY-SA 2.0 license.