NORTH LIBERTY– Students in the Iowa City Community School District (ICCSD) who had to be in school this Jan. 20 made the most of it.
Traditionally a day off in observance of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the ICCSD school board voted to have students in session this year. Across the nation, the day has more recently become a Day of Service, to join in a collective effort to make a positive difference in the lives of others.
At Penn Elementary School in North Liberty, students learned about Dr. King’s leadership of a non-violent movement to achieve legal equality for African-Americans. A clergyman, writer, and activities, Dr. King led campaigns against poverty and conflict, racial disparity and human injustice. Staff and students at Penn school focused not just a day, but an entire two weeks, on learning about Dr. King, his efforts, and how to apply his principles to their school community and beyond.
Literature, audio and video materials helped bring Dr. King’s words and actions to life in the classroom, and students were encouraged to engage in projects that could make a difference locally and globally.
Penn instructor Catherine Young is Penn’s representative to the ICCSD’s Multi-cultural/Gender Fair committee, and she worked with a school committee to introduce options for service-oriented activities that could be conducted within classrooms and school-wide.
“We decided to do a service project because Martin Luther King helped people and we thought it would be the right thing to do, too,” said student Nora Marcy.
Students were asked to write to a local service worker, such as a police officer, firefighter or soldier, thanking him or her for the service to community and country. The student body collected coins to be donated to Heifer International as part of their global effort. Heifer International is a nonprofit organization that helps provide not just food to international areas of hunger and poverty, but also the means to create income and sustainable food sources through purchasing and donating flocks of chickens or livestock like goats, cows or sheep.
Finally, Penn students and staff collected canned and boxed food items to be donated to the North Liberty Community Food and Clothing Pantry.
“We donated a lot of food to help other people,” said Kennedy Conner.
With donations funneling to a central location, students were able to see that when everyone gives a little, it adds up to a lot.
“It feels good because you know you are helping someone,” said student Carter Fedeler.