Schools across Lake Oswego spent time learning about the legendary civil rights leader

REVIEW PHOTO: CLAIRE HOLLEY - At Lakeridge Junior High, eighth-grade students researched a variety of social justice movements that occurred in the 1960s, including the civil rights movement and the work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.SUBMITTED PHOTO: MARY ALLEN - Spanish Immersion teacher Mary Allen had her third-graders decorate their classroom door at River Grove Elementary School in remembrance of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.Students in Lake Oswego had the day off on Monday in remembrance of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., but teachers across the district took time before or after the holiday to teach their classes about the late civil rights leader.

At River Grove Elementary, multiple teachers spent the Friday before the long weekend doing activities with their classes centered around King.

"It is important for our kids (and us) to understand and remember why there is no school on Monday," said River Grove Principal Dan Draper. "During my walk-throughs this week, I had the chance to see a number of powerful lessons on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy as a leader of the civil rights movement."

The lessons focused on equality, diversity and inclusion, an ongoing theme at all schools in the Lake Oswego School District.

"As we continue to build an inclusive and safe learning community at River Grove, we can learn a lot from Dr. King's teachings," Draper said. "River Grove is placing a strong focus on equality and equity as we look to put appropriate supports in place to meet the needs of all students."

At Lakeridge Junior High, eighth-grade language arts teacher Shane Kelly began a social justice literacy program with his classes before the holiday, in part to get them thinking about the meaning behind their day off.

"We started our reading of 'The Secret Life of Bees' on Friday," Kelly said. The novel, written by Sue Monk Kidd, is a coming-of-age story about a 14-year-old girl living in South Carolina. It takes place in 1964, during the height of many social justice movements. One issue the book touches on is the immense difficulties and barriers African Americans faced even after legally gaining the right to vote.

"As a way to prepare, we've taken the Louisiana Voter Literacy Test and looked at the practice of poll taxes," said Kelly, who added that he chose the book because, while it focuses on the civil rights movement, it also touches on many other coinciding movements throughout the 1960s.

REVIEW PHOTO: CLAIRE HOLLEY - Some students at Lakeridge Junior High chose to research the women's liberation movement because of recent events concerning sexual harrassment, assault and consent."The multiple movements that were going on all affect Lily's (the main character) life," he said. "Many of the movements were intertwined."

Kelly's classes split into groups to do research projects on their chosen social justice movement from the 1960s: the civil rights movement, the women's liberation movement, the anti-Vietnam movement, the student movement, the environmental movement or the gay rights movement.

Students were tasked with learning the facts of the movement, its most influential leaders, if students were involved and the lasting impact it has had on society. Kayla Susak, whose group chose to research the women's liberation movement, said she's excited to learn about social justice.

"I feel like it's an important topic to be talking about in a classroom setting. You have to be calm and rational," she said. "We chose the women's rights movement because it's an important movement right now. It still applies today, and it's something we should be focused on."

Fellow group member Bella Mann agreed.

"It's especially important right now because of the Time's Up movement," she said, referencing a campaign started by Hollywood actresses to end sexual harassment and assault for all women.

Eighth-graders Sophia Ruger and Claire Sarnowski chose to research the civil rights movement.

"I thought it would be cool because MLK Day was recently, and our book focuses on that movement," said Ruger. "I'm especially interested in learning about the assassination of MLK because I don't know much about it."

Sarnowski said she grew up aware of the civil rights movement but has learned so much more about it since doing research.

"I'm looking forward to learning more throughout the rest of the social justice unit," she said.

Contact Lake Oswego Review reporter Claire Holley at 503-636-1281 ext. 109 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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