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Coleman Elementary first graders hold peaceful demonstration

Thursday, Feb. 7 | By Alisa Booze Troetschel

First grade students at Coleman Elementary School participated in a peaceful demonstration Friday in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King’s teachings. It was the kickoff event for the school’s celebration of February as Black History Month.

Following a unit on citizenship and kindness, the first graders made signs about issues that were important to them. Starting in the school’s lobby, students marched peacefully through the school, singing songs and carrying their signs with such messages as “Be nice,” “No bullying,” “Hope,” “Thank you, MLK,” “No violence” and “Use kind words.” To the tune of “B-I-N-G-O” they marched the hallways singing, “There was a man who had a dream. His name was Martin Luther King.” and “Doctor King, he had a dream. He wanted peace for everyone…P-E-A-C-E.”

The demonstration ended in the cafeteria where several students recited excerpts from Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech before an audience of second-grade classes, a third-grade class and several special guests – School Board member Duke Bland, FCPS Instructional Supervisor Dr. Patricia Downey, Afro-American Historical Association members Rev. and Mrs. Lemuel Montgomery and Coleman administrators Principal Joy Seward and Assistant Principal Wendy Wilcox.

The cafeteria was set up like the mall in Washington, DC, featuring a projected picture of the Lincoln Memorial on the wall with Coleman students standing as if on the steps of the memorial. There was also a three-dimensional, four-foot model of the Washington Monument with a reflecting pool. Five students recited parts of Dr. King’s speech, and the event ended with students dancing and singing a song about Dr. King.

“It really set the mood,” said reading teacher Kathy Crane. “It was beautiful and brought tears to quite a few grown-ups’ eyes.”

Students who witnessed the peaceful demonstration were equally impressed. One third-grader said she thought it was “good that kids wanted to change the world.” A fifth-grader said she was amazed the first-graders “could be so brave to do something like this.” Many observers commented on how the student-made signs provided a wonderful way to see what was important to the first-graders and what they had learned from studying Dr. King’s teachings, demonstrations from the 1960s, citizenship and kindness.

by Karen Parkinson, Coordinator of Information, Fauquier County Public Schools
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