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Yates art students decorate grocery bags for MLK holiday

For art teacher Michelle Thomas, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. is an ongoing inspiration for all ages, and she made sure that Yates Elementary students realize the importance of his legacy. With his birthday approaching, she guided a learn-and-do project culminating in more than 350 brown paper grocery bags decorated with King’s likeness and lessons. “We take from our world and show our perception of something,” she explained. “Kids’ art is pure and true and honest, and I love bringing that out of them.”

Second grader Yaretzi Sanguino, for instance, spoke of a global unification of black people and white people thanks to King’s leadership and of her happiness in having diverse friends. Her bag featured phrases like “A true hero,” “I have a big dream,” and “Never give up.” Classmate Campol Timerich, also 8, urged people to “Love yourself,” “Don’t bully,” and “Be nice.”

The youngsters hoped for a feel-good response from customers at the nearby Kroger on Bryan Station Road, where staff used the school’s MLK-themed quick-list bags over the Jan. 18-20 weekend. “Seeing kids’ artwork automatically triggers joy in us,” Thomas noted.

Thomas, who is in her first year at Yates, has directed this project for about 14 years – first in South Carolina classrooms and then in Shelby County, Kentucky. “I do an informal check to see what they already know. There are some misconceptions, too,” she said, such as students thinking that King was the president who ended slavery. “He was such an instrumental person in ending segregation. Also, it’s the kindness aspect. With the younger kids, I focus more on kindness and treating others the way you want to be treated. From second grade on, I focus on King as an agent of change and bring that forward to ‘Can you be a change-maker?’”

During one class period, the second graders brainstormed issues that King might address today such as stealing, sharing, being honest, taking care of the environment, and showing kindness to neighbors. The children then spent an hour the following week designing their bags. The K-1 students practiced copying shapes to draw a simple portrait, while the older groups keyed in on how to keep King’s dream alive and potentially continue his work. Most sketched in pencil and added color with crayons and markers.

“We’re doing something with this artwork that could change someone’s mindset,” Thomas said. “I want these students to know they can be the change and carry on making the world a better place. Martin Luther King is a source of inspiration for that. The holiday is not just a day off.”

Video by Linda Dawahare / FCPS-ETV



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