This collage from simple shapes is a wonderful way to discuss the history behind MLK, Jr. Day while exploring an iconic image.
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Make: A Collage celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The iconic image of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. calmly smiling and waving at a peaceful but energized crowd – hopeful people as far as the eye can see – is one that’s so familiar, but never fails to inspire.

Using simple shapes, I re-created it in collage form – hopefully making it easier for kids to understand visually, and build. The important part though, is that it also gives time for adults to explain what it represents and provide an opportunity to learn a more complete history of his teachings (this picture is only a small part of it).

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Rather than being a stand-alone art activity, this is intended to be paired with discussion. If you’re looking for ways to begin the conversation here are a few ideas for places to start…

This collage from simple shapes is a wonderful way to discuss the history behind MLK, Jr. Day while exploring an iconic image.
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To make your own MLK, Jr. collage you’ll need:

BASIC SUPPLIES:

  • Multiple colors of construction paper
  • Scissors
  • A Glue Stick

OPTIONAL SUPPLIES:

This collage from simple shapes is a wonderful way to discuss the history behind MLK, Jr. Day while exploring an iconic image.
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DIY Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Collage Instructions:

  1. Cut out simple shapes for your collage

    There are quite a few ways to make this collage your own. For the most part, this is made with simple shapes you can easily eyeball to cut out and recreate. We made a template including the incredible Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. himself (and each of the shapes to scale) in case you’d like to keep this simple – but I think it could also be fun to have kids draw MLK, Jr., individual faces on their “crowd” cutout circles, or incorporate actual photographs in the collage.

    This collage from simple shapes is a wonderful way to discuss the history behind MLK, Jr. Day while exploring an iconic image.
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    Once you have all of your collage pieces cut out, you can follow the pictures below to see how we layered the pieces to re-create the iconic “I have a Dream” speech image. At each step, secure your pieces with a glue stick.

  2. Glue down your background shapes

    Start by laying down the background (the sky, the Washington Monument and the reflecting pool). 

    This collage from simple shapes is a wonderful way to discuss the history behind MLK, Jr. Day while exploring an iconic image.
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  3. Add trees to the mid-ground by gluing down circles

    This is a great lesson in perspective for kids. For reference, you can print out and reference the actual photo at the top of the post to help them recreate the line of trees in perspective.

    This collage from simple shapes is a wonderful way to discuss the history behind MLK, Jr. Day while exploring an iconic image.
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  4. Glue smaller circles in the mid-ground to add the crowd

    Begin adding the crowd. To create the crowd I used 2 sizes of circles, but you can use more or less. There’s a little mini-lesson in perspective here, in that the farther away something is, the smaller it will be. Small circles will go towards the back, larger at the front.

    This collage from simple shapes is a wonderful way to discuss the history behind MLK, Jr. Day while exploring an iconic image.
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  5. Finish by adding Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to your collage

    Add Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – you can use the one from our template PDF, cut out a printed picture, or draw your own! 

And while we’re here, let’s take a minute to share Bob Adelman too, the freelance photographer who captured this moment with incredible skill. “I shot with one eye on the lens, one eye on history, and my heart was with the movement”. You can find a whole collection of his civil rights photography here.

This collage from simple shapes is a wonderful way to discuss the history behind MLK, Jr. Day while exploring an iconic image.
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This collage from simple shapes is a wonderful way to discuss the life and story of Martin Luther King, Jr. while exploring an iconic image. #MLKDay #MartinLutherKingJr #kidscrafts #DIYkids #arthistory #collage
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This collage from simple shapes is a wonderful way to discuss the history behind MLK, Jr. Day while exploring an iconic image.
  • Save

This collage from simple shapes is a wonderful way to discuss the history behind MLK, Jr. Day while exploring an iconic image.
  • Save

This collage from simple shapes is a wonderful way to discuss the history behind MLK, Jr. Day while exploring an iconic image.
  • Save
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About Amanda Eldridge

With a passion for cultivating imagination, Amanda aims to help families discover their creative potential and be inspired to make the world a better place through art, play, adventure, activism, conservancy, and community. When not playing with ideas, designs and projects for barley & birch, Amanda enjoys working as a modern art curator and managing her own small design business.

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