FAIRFIELD, Ohio — With messages and curriculum inspired by both the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and a strong feeling of division in the United States, Fairfield City Schools have launched their first ever Unity Week, to teach students the importance of both unity and diversity.
"Everyone looks different and we have talked about that: Is that OK? Yes," said second-grade teacher Shalena Ford to her students. She's focusing on teaching her class that each student is unique in their own way, but similar and united at the same time.
The week kicked off Monday, while students were home reflecting on what MLK's legacy means:
"He was a really special person and he didn’t care what color they are," said Thomas Hensley, a second-grader in the class. "He really just cared about people."
"We learned about all the great things that he did for our country and how there was racism about our colors," said Josie Masters, a second-grader. "You should treat others the way you want to be treated."
On Tuesday, students learned that everyone can be united in motion -- by turning off the classroom lights and dancing together.
"Tomorrow we will be wearing yellow to show us all united in that color," said Forde. "Just really focusing and paying attention to diversity and that we are all united as one even though we may look different."
Fairfield North Elementary School principal Denise Hayes said the current division across the nation has made for the perfect opportunity to spread a message of unity to students.
"It's so important that we cannot repeat the mistakes of the past," said Hayes. "Like Maya Angelou says, 'When we know better, we have a responsibility to do better.'"
Forde has sought to have difficult, yet important, conversations with her second-graders, reminding them to be kind and honor one another's differences.
"I became a teacher to help kids," she said. "Other than teaching them, they have to understand things that happen in life. Basic, everyday things that are outside of math and reading. You have to understand that even though everyone is different, you have to get along with everyone and treat everyone the same."
On Friday, the district plans to collect quarters from students and faculty to donate to different local charities: Fairfield For Change, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Butler County and the English Learners annual scholarship fund.