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Spirit of Service at Heart of MLK Day, Teacher Says

Long Valley Middle School educator says students, adults alike should make community a better place throughout the year.

Editor's note: The following is a column written for Patch by Long Valley Middle School teacher Matt Marciano. He is a sixth grade social studies teacher that has implemented – and been recognized for – his "Change the World" annual project, which has been reported on by Long Valley Patch in the past. 

“Life's most persistent and urgent question is, 'What are you doing for others?'”

-Martin Luther King, Jr.

For the past three years on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, my sixth grade students at Long Valley Middle School have presented, in a gallery walk, their Change the World Projects. There is no coincidence with the fact that the gallery walk is held on this day as Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is also known as a Day of Service in honor of Dr. King and his legacy with regards to civil rights.

Students in my classes have to think of a way to change the world and by May, they must make good on their promise. In the past, students have written cards to soldiers overseas, have visited nursing homes, have participated in walkathons for various charities, among so many other great ideas. The goal of the project is to get my students, at a young age, to put the needs of other people of themselves. It is my hope that the students will continue their projects long after they leave my class (which many have) and gives them the opportunity to know that even at a young age, they can impact the lives of others and can change the world for the better.

I wanted to share some useful links involved with the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service that offer some great ideas for everyone to give back to their community, not just on Dr. King Day but throughout the year. I always tell my students that even doing such a small gesture for someone can impact their life and make you feel good that you helped another person.

Here are some useful websites that can get you thinking about ways to help others:

  • http://mlkday.gov/ - this is the official website for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service. There are different ideas on this website about projects that can be done in a community to give back to others. The website gives ideas about projects that you can start that relate to the environment, education and helping veterans and their families. 
  • http://www.serve.gov/ - another official website of the government, this website also features different ideas about volunteering and different “toolkits” to get started on your own with a volunteering project in the area.

There are a lot of other useful websites on the Internet that can help you think of ideas to help others and make the world a better place.

Whatever you do, no matter how big or small, that helps someone else, is helping to change the world in a positive way. It is also helping to keep the legacy of Dr. King alive, not just on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, but throughout the entire year. 

outdoorindoor January 19, 2014 at 12:23 PM
This is the heart of education. Congratulations to you and your students for all of the ways, both big and small, they are making a difference.
Eileen Stokes January 19, 2014 at 03:00 PM
Mr. Marciano's classes' projects the past three years have been an inspiration. The Spirit of Service Day reminds me of a wonderful quote I found a coupe of years ago from Rabindranath Tagore, an Indian poet, playright and essayist who wond the Nobe Prize for Literature in 1913. “I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.”
Minuteman Too January 20, 2014 at 11:49 AM
Plaudits to Mr. Marciano and the Middle School students. I have heard of, and seen personally, their inspired work and thoughts on Service to the community in its' entirety. My sincere hope is that they continue to Serve and Learn. There have been many Great Americans who can and should inspire them along with Dr. King. We should not forget them. I searched the Web today for "George Washington.Gov" but could not find a Government site lauding the man who Served eight years in battle to set this land free and who then turned down the title of "King" to build, as "President" not Monarch, that land into a Nation. Nor could I find a listing for "George Washington Day". A day set aside that would allow us to laud and appreciate his Service. I think there was one, once. But that was a long time ago. Abraham Lincoln? Be careful, as you "serve", that our many other Heroes are not lost "in the shuffle".

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