Lesson plan

A Black History Month Lesson on Peace

In this Black History Month lesson plan, students will explore the similarities between Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks. This a discussion-based lesson that culminates with the creation of a peace wreath.
Grade Subject View aligned standards

Students will be able to participate in a discussion and describe the similarities between well-known civil rights heroes.

(5 minutes)
  • Tell students to share examples of problems they have faced with friends at school.
  • Ask students to share examples of how they solved these problems.
  • Explain to students that over 50 years ago in the United States, people who had dark skin, such as African-Americans, faced unfair treatment, such as having to go to different schools than white people and use different bathrooms.
  • Many people saw this as a big problem that needed a solution.
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks were two people who felt that this treatment was unfair, and they used non-violent and peaceful methods to work towards a solution to this problem.
(10 minutes)
  • Introduce students to a brief history of Martin Luther King, Jr. using the Martin Luther King, Jr: Historical Heroes worksheet as a reference.
  • Emphasize for students that Martin Luther King, Jr. believed in peaceful demonstration and protests, and he did not believe in violence as a way to solve the problems African-Americans faced.
  • Introduce students to a brief history of Rosa Parks using the Rosa Parks: Historical Heroes worksheet as a reference.
  • Emphasize for students that, like Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks did not use violence to express herself and accomplish her goal of equal rights for African-Americans.
  • Optional: Read students Martin's Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Doreen Rappaport.
  • Optional: Read students I am Rosa Parks by Brad Metzner.
(10 minutes)
  • Ask students to talk about what was similar between Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks.
  • Write and draw students' contributions on a piece of chart paper.
  • Support students to see that Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks had a lot in common. For example, they were both African-Americans, they both wanted to change the rules that made life unfair for African-Americans, they both demonstrated bravery, and they both believed in peace and used non-violent means to protest the unfair treatment of themselves and other African-Americans.
(10 minutes)
  • Tell students that in order to celebrate the peaceful acts of these historical heroes we are going to create a peace wreath, which will be filled with hands of different colors uniting together to create one wreath.
  • Show students the multicultural construction paper and tell students that they will each select a color that best matches their skin color.
  • Explain to students that they will trace one of their hands on the construction paper and cut it out.


  • Provide students with more examples of how Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks are similar during the Guided Practice/Modeling time.
  • Give students the option to work with a partner to trace each other's hands during the Independent Work Time.


  • For an added challenge, during the Guided Practice/Modeling time ask students to think about any other historical heroes they might know of that demonstrated similar qualities to King and Parks. Have them share their contributions aloud or create their own list of similarities independently.
(10 minutes)
  • Introduce students to a third historical hero from the civil rights era (e.g. Ruby Bridges) by reading a book about them (see Related Books and/or Media).
  • Post the chart paper listing the similarities between Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks.
  • Read through the points on the chart and ask students to show you a thumbs up if the third historical hero also had these things in common and a thumbs down if they did not.
  • Watch to see if students are able to successfully make connections between these historical heroes.
(10 minutes)
  • Gather all of the students' hands that they have cut out.
  • Begin to glue them together to create a wreath.
  • Explain to students that this activity celebrates the peaceful acts of historical heroes, such as Martin Luther King, Jr and Rosa Parks, who strongly believed that people should not be separated or treated differently just because they had different skin colors.
  • Tell students that without the hard work and bravery of people like King and Park the world would be a very different place.
  • Ask students for suggestions of where to place your peace wreath and hang it up.

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