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MLK Avenues

If you have not already, do check out this piece in yesterday’s Post. “Taking to roads to find Martin Luther King’s legacy” highlights the years-long journey of a group of DC students with a simple yet ambitious goal: gaining a deeper understanding of Dr. King’s life and work by exploring the streets named for him — including DC’s own Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SE:

Eight teenagers from five D.C. high schools crisscrossed the country with two mentors and video cameras, visiting more than a dozen “MLK streets.” Their driving tours in 2008 coincided with the presidential campaign of Barack Obama, putting the students between a history they barely knew and history in the making.

The documentary they produced is still in rough cut, though it was aired at Anacostia Library as a run-up to the King holiday. But the images the teens now carry with them, they said, have reshaped how they think about themselves and their world.

While the process began as a “series of high school road trips … with the loose intention of picking apart a well-worn Chris Rock joke,” it developed into the chance to explore history in a truly hands-on way: along with their two mentors, the eight students met after school and during their summer vacation, reading Dr. King’s speeches and books, discussing how his words apply to our world, and ultimately traveling to Memphis, Harlem, and Berkeley (among other cities).

Not only is the project itself fascinating, but the article also highlights (albeit indirectly) exactly how education works when it is, well, working: “the images the teens now carry with them, they said, have reshaped how they think about themselves and their world.” The best history lessons, the best experiences in science or language or literature, should do precisely that. They should be experiences. They should give students a chance to dive into their world, to both make and document their own discoveries, to re-examine and weigh in on what is most essential.

This project is, actually, a microcosmic example of smart multi-disciplinary learning. Of learning that feels immediate and personal and fun because it is all three of those things. After reading this article, I thought that this was a great day to cheer for Catalogue’s education non-profits — who are working every day to see that learning and discovery are indeed on every street of the city.

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