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).
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…
- Teaching about King’s Radical Approach to Social Justice – a lesson plan from Tolerance.org
- Hidden in Plain Sight: Martin Luther King’s Radical Vision – teaching unit ideas from Zinnedproject.org
- Reclaiming the Radical Martin Luther King, Jr. – A study guide from the Center for Political Education
- Martin Luther King Jr: More Than Just a Dream – a discussion packet for younger learners from Read Like a Rock Star.
To make your own MLK, Jr. collage you’ll need:
- Multiple colors of construction paper
- A Glue Stick
- Our Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Collage Free Printable PDF Template
- A printed photo or drawing you’ve made of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
DIY Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Collage Instructions:
- 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.
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.
- Glue down your background shapes
Start by laying down the background (the sky, the Washington Monument and the reflecting pool).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.