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Dream Keepers honor MLK

Filling boxes of unity, diversity

If you start noticing colorful rocks around the community, there’s a good chance Wealthy Elementary students are behind it.

Painted with “begin with” on one side, each small rock has a word written on the other side that is inspired by the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: Respect. Justice. Courage. Kindness. Love.

Related: ‘What’s worth fighting for?’ Middle-schoolers reflect on Civil Rights movement

Art teacher Peri den Dulk is part of the Cultural Ambassadors Committee that came up with this year’s MLK Day theme and lesson plan

The painted rocks are courtesy of the school’s “Dream Keepers,” and part of an even larger effort last Friday.

Dream Keeper groups have existed at Wealthy School since 2013 to honor the slain civil rights leader. Every year the groups, which include students in second through fifth grades that stay together throughout their time at Wealthy, mark MLK Day with a theme and art activity. Lesson plans and activities are designed by the school’s Cultural Ambassadors Committee.

Second-graders create Dream Keeper boxes and add mementoes of every year’s MLK Day activities. At the end of fifth grade, the students leave Wealthy Elementary with their boxes.

“The objects each of them choose to go in there are meaningful to them,” said fourth-grade teacher Tim Saunders. “It’s like a time capsule they get to open every year and add to.”

Added art teacher Peri den Dulk: “When you hear the older students as they explain to the younger ones what the boxes are about, that’s what I love.”

Fourth-grader Claire Assaf, left, and second-grader Cameron Hartfield show off their mural tiles

Celebrate Unity, Diversity

Fourth-grader Hadley Irwin can tell you why diversity is important to recognize and to celebrate: “Because it makes the world different,” she said. “If everyone was the same, it would not be a very interesting world to live in.”

Fifth-grader Jojo Taatjes conceded there might be less arguing if people were more alike, “but it’s good to have arguments,” she said, “so you can make your own opinions.”

The theme this year came from the book “The Day You Begin” by Jacqueline Woodson, and activities emphasized celebrating uniqueness while discovering what students have in common.

Fourth grade teacher Tim Saunders reads ‘The Day You Begin’ by Jacqueline Woodson to his Dream Keepers group

To wrap up the day’s events, each student created a 6-inch-by-6-inch paper quilt square that will be part of a 6-foot-by-24-foot paper quilt that will hang for the rest of this year outside the school’s learning commons.

Each student was given the same number of squares and triangles with which to decorate their tiles. Even though they started with the same basic materials, den Dulk told them, “it’s how you arrange them that makes them unique, and when you put them side-by-side, that makes a quilt of humanity.”

den Dulk said the project was inspired by one done at Zamorano Fine Arts Academy.


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Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema is a Grand Rapids native and a product of Grand Rapids Public Schools, including Brookside and West Leonard elementaries, City Middle/High School and Ottawa Hills. She found her tribe in journalism in 1997 and has never wanted to do anything but write. For 15 years she was a freelance journalist for The Grand Rapids Press, covering local schools and government, religion, business, home & garden and lifestyles. She and her husband, John, think even those without kiddos should be invested in their local schools and made to feel a part of them. Read Morgan's full bio or email Morgan.


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