“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

It is great to see that MLK day is turning into a weekend of celebration, events and volunteering all across the county, tying nicely with the presidential inauguration. Recent in the news, President Barak Obama and Michelle Obama spent the National Day of Service volunteering at an elementary school in D.C. His leadership forces us to take a step back and think about in what ways we are helping our community and making our world a better place for all. It also reminds of how important it is to take a moment out in our busy lives to volunteer and give back to others.

Most MLK classroom activities for kids involve writing their own “I have a dream…” speech or teaching children about diversity through painting projects. Without a doubt, these MLK projects for kids are educational, helping them to learn about Martin Luther King Jr. and allowing them to practice and develop their writing skills.

But MLK day is a great opportunity to teach kids about, well, the facts of life that are often not discussed. I’m taking about making children aware of inequality in our society, aware that poverty exists, and aware that people are discriminated by not just their race but their gender, class, sexual orientation, and ability.

It is important to teach kids Martin Luther King Jr.’s message that “all men are created equal,” and that, yes, there are differences between people and that these differences shouldn’t be ignored, but celebrated. Through these projects and our MLK lesson plans, let us also make sure that we are encouraging children to come together and strengthen their communities.

It is important to remind them that MLK dreamed of a nation where people “will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character,” and that all humans would be treated with respect.  We must teach children that it was MLK’s dream that we would all come together to stand up for freedom and justice.

And most importantly, remind your students that change begins within themselves.

How will you pass on Martin Luther King Jr.’s message to your students?