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The iconic image of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. leading the March on Washington for Jobs & Freedom – hopeful people as far as the eye can see – is one that’s so familiar, but never fails to inspire.
Using simple shapes, I recreated the image in collage form for a Martin Luther King Jr. kids art project you can use for discussion (as well as a bit of art theory). The simple repeated forms layered on paper give kids a hands-on way to explore visual perspective.
But more importantly, this project creates an opportunity for adults to explain the historical perspective – what this captured image represents, a more complete history of MLK’s teachings, and invite discussion about how this moment in time relates to current events.
To make your own Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. art collage you’ll need:
- Multiple colors of construction paper
- A Glue Stick
- Our Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Art 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. Art Collage Instructions:
- Cut out the simple shapes for your MLK 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 constructive 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.
Tip: Feeling like all these cutout shapes are going to mean ALOT of prep work for you? Instead of cutting out the small circles for the faces in the crowd, you can invite your kids to draw them right on the paper, or make the faces from fingerprints instead!
- 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 refer to 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 another little mini-lesson in perspective here too, in that the farther away something is, the smaller it will be. Small circles will go towards the back, and larger circles will be 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!
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…
- Watch Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have A Dream” speech via Black Excellence Excellist or listen here via The Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change
- Teaching about King’s Radical Approach to Social Justice, History Moves With Us, and more MLK resources from Learning For Justice
- The Beloved Community Coursework Guides – Free printable PK-12 lesson plans with activities and discussion questions from The King Center
- Ditto Kids Books We Love: On Dr. King – a collection of children’s books about Dr. Martin Luther King from Ditto Kids
- Martin Luther King Jr: More Than Just a Dream – a discussion packet for younger learners from Read Like a Rock Star
- 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
- A Read-Aloud of Martin’s Big Words via the Chicago Children’s Museum
- Our free printable voting kit – demonstrate the importance of practicing the right to vote using our free printable voting kit to put on a mock election or vote on a specific issue.
And while we’re here, I’ll 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.
Working with younger kids? This project is a little advanced for little ones still learning how to use scissors. You can skip the sharp-edged tools and cut all the pieces out for them to arrange, or invite them to use watercolors to make a set of their own diverse peg dolls instead, for a project that encourages education, inclusion, and acceptance.