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Children celebrate MLK through art at Long Island Children's Museum

Children present their finished artwork at a workshop

Children present their finished artwork at a workshop held in celebration of Martin Luther King Day at the Long Island Children's Museum in Garden City. (Jan. 21, 2013) Credit: Amy Oronato Amy Oronato

In a small classroom on the second floor of the Long Island Children’s Museum, a group of children and their parents sat silently and listened to an excerpt of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

When the speech was over, Education Program Coordinator Stacy Lee asked the children what the speech meant to them.

“He said that he wants to have freedom,” Lee Hochman, 7, of North Woodmere, said. “It doesn’t matter what color your skin is, as long as you’re happy.”

Listening to the “I Have a Dream” speech was just one of the activities in a special workshop held at the Garden City museum in celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The workshop, open to children 5 years old and up, combined art and education to teach children some of the history behind the holiday and why it is important today.

“This is one of the days these children have off from school,” said Maureen Mangan, director of communications at the museum. “It’s important to remind them why they have off and to keep that special occasion present in their mind.” At the beginning of the workshop, children were guided through a basic history of the civil rights movement. They were introduced to several important concepts surrounding the movement, such as prejudice, discrimination and civil rights.

As Lee taught, the children were invited to give their own input and opinions based on what they might have learned in school.

During the second half of the workshop, the students used acrylic paint and collage materials to create self-portraits that depicted themselves in a peaceful environment. Each child painted something different, expressing themselves in their own way.

Charlie Schwartz, 8, of Stamford, Conn., chose to paint herself at a beach because it was her favorite place to go, while Sophia Masone, 4, of Mount Sinai, painted herself in a garden.

“We did self portraits to understand how we look and to understand ourselves,” Lee said.

Due to the popularity of the program, now in its fourth year, the museum offered the 45-minute workshop three times throughout the day.

Judy Tartell, 65, of Roslyn, accompanied her two grandchildren to the workshop. She said the experience bridged the past with the present.

“It was a very scary time for those that lived through it,” she said. “It’s important to know the history and where we’ve been, so we can live a life that’s thoughtful. It’s important to understand."

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