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MLK Day of Service in the Classroom and Beyond

At TPS, we teach the value of service, civic engagement, and the importance of creating a diverse, inviting community where all identities are welcomed and given a sense of belonging. Our classes learn these values throughout the entire school year, but give special attention during the days leading up to and after MLK Day of Service. As students look at these values through the lens of justice, equity, and the history of our country, each grade brings new context to the legacy of Dr. King and why it's so important to TPS. Studies on these themes won't end here. Many classrooms will continue to guide this conversation in the coming weeks and will reflect on Black Lives Matter Week of Action starting on February 6th.

This week, we will take a look at a few classroom’s lessons and will reflect on TPS’s own MLK Day of Service this past Monday. 


Students read a picture book adaptation of Dr. King’s I Have a Dream speech, accompanied by pictures from Caldecott Medal and the Coretta Scott King Award-winning illustrator Kadir Nelson. Students wanted to know more about his four children, Bernice, Dexter, Martin III, and Yolanda, so they did some research to learn how they have continued their father’s important work. 


Kindergarteners read all about Dr. Martin Luther King in a number of books that sparked some really thoughtful discussion! They learned about who he was, the work he did to bring about fairness in our country, and how words have great power. And while he helped bring about a lot of progress, there is also still more work to do so that our country feels fair for everyone. Students also connected what they learned back to their study on friendship. Words have power to make others feel happy, sad, or a range of other emotions. 

Primary Unit

Primary Unit students read books like Martin's Big Words and My Brother Martin, a book about seven year old Martin Luther King. It talks about his childhood and his hobbies, but also his struggles as a Black child living in the south and how that shaped his life. Reading this sparked many meaningful discussions. Primary A watched a video of Dr. King speaking during the March on Washington. These lessons are just the start of these discussions and students will continue to engage with each other about these topics next week and beyond. Primary D thought about which words and quotes spoke to them the most and we made a classroom community collage to display in our hallway to help keep Dr. King’s teachings alive.

Third Grade

Third grade classes watched an animated version of MLK’s I Have a Dream speech. They were able to see the original manuscript and how he changed some of it as he was speaking to the crowd. Students had the chance to take note of words and phrases that resonated with them and will continue to discuss this time in history as their unit of study, Building a more Fair USA (and Beyond), continues.

Junior Unit

Students have been talking about important Civil Rights icons including Fannie Lou Hamer and Coretta Scott King. Leading up to MLK Day of Service, these discussions allowed students to lift up voices they may not hear as much and have a dialogue about this time in history. 

MLK Day of Service 2023 at TPS

On Monday, January 16th, the TPS community gathered for a day of service and learning about ways to support our city and the organizations working to make it a better place for all. Over 300 parents and children worked on projects from letter writing to making bags of snacks for four organizations:

This was an amazing event for our families and community and members of each organization attended to talk more about their work and how this day will impact those they serve. Our middle school students in Student Council shined as they helped younger children with the projects and read books about MLK. 

We also had the great pleasure of welcoming City Love, a Philly-based social justice music and education group, with one of its members being Primary A teacher, Brian Jordan. The band’s members are teachers and musicians who make music for the world we need and use their songs to spread love, hope, dialogue, justice and healing. If you are inspired by their mission and message, we encourage you to check out their website for more materials, their albums, and resources for families and educators.