Civil Rights March at Rousseau

MARCHING WITH PURPOSE – Students at Rousseau McClellan School 91 create signs for their annual Civil Rights March, which is held in January. The march is part of the Montessori school’s peace curriculum, and teaches students valuable lessons about the world. 

Some of the city’s youngest residents will demonstrate their views on civility, inclusion, peace and diversity as they take to the hallways inside Rousseau McClellan School 91 for the IPS Montessori school’s annual Civil Rights March on Friday, January 18.

Each year in January, students from Pre-K through eighth grade, display messages of hope and sing songs about freedom as they march throughout the school.

Civil Rights March at Rousseau McClellan

It’s a tradition that started around 1990 and pays tribute to the Civil Rights Movement, along with many of the people at the forefront of the fight for equal rights for all. It also serves as part of the school’s curriculum.

“The school started the march after the Montessori program moved from School 55 to Rousseau McClellan,” said Rebecca Pfaffenberger, a middle school teacher who is part of the planning committee. “An important aspect of the Montessori curriculum is peace education. Teaching about the Civil Rights Movement and its focus on peaceful protest to try to create change in an injustice society works hand-in-hand with our curriculum.”

This year marks Pfaffenberger’s 20th year participating in the march, and she’s witnessed firsthand how it has affected students.

“We have several students who have become modern-day activists. They have taken their experiences at our school and their participation in our march and have transferred those to the larger community,” said Pfaffenberger, who is a member of the school’s Multicultural and Racial Equity Committee.

“I attended two different marches over the past year in the city of Indianapolis and at both I ran into students from our school. At one of the marches, one of our students led the chants as we marched,” added Pfaffenberger. “Our students are building their understanding of their role in our society, the importance of their voice, growing their confidence for standing up for what they believe, and understanding they can make a difference here at our school and in the Indianapolis community. It makes this teacher burst with pride!” 

Here’s what some of Pfaffenberger’s eighth-grade students said about the Civil Rights March:

Valeria A., 13: “We’re trying to teach the young kids how important is was during the Civil Rights Movement and how Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wanted to have freedom of speech for everyone. We understand the importance of it. … The march makes me feel good because it makes me feel like I have a voice and the freedom to express what I want to express or what I feel is right, and I just feel like it’s giving me the rights to be free.”

Jennifer D., 13: “I think we do (the march) to teach that Martin Luther King Jr. changed the world and that we should celebrate that. So, we walk around the school and everyone is just in a good mood. It just feels really good. It also feels like a real march because parents are there in the hallways filming, like it’s being televised. … I also I think it shows that we start teaching students as young as kindergarten that you should fight for what you believe in.”

Savannah M., 13: “I think the march is telling all of the little kids in the school that all races are equal, so we should all be treated the same and that you should speak your mind. … I also think the march is showing how our school celebrates many different diversities and how we celebrate them around the school.”

Jaxson G., 13: “I would agree that the march is speaking out to the little kids, but it’s also speaking to the older kids. I have a lot of friends here and half of them wouldn’t be at this school if we were still separate. … I think it’s pretty cool that we get to continue to fight for equal rights for people and hopefully we can make it so there’s no more fighting for equal rights and everybody just has them.”

Nyla N., 14: “The march is important to me because it teaches all kids that it doesn’t matter what color you are, you can have the same rights. … During the march, we focus on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and the other people who were influential during the Civil Rights Movement. It’s cool to know that I’m part of something that has been changing throughout history.”

Each year after the march, Pfaffenberger said students begin to apply the values of peace, inclusivity and equal rights with them throughout the school.

“Our students are quick to stand up for those who they feel are being treated unfairly and question policies they feel are not fair,” said Pfaffenberger. “They take their role as a citizen of our community incredibly seriously and are active in making it a better place for all students.” 

The annual Civil Rights March at Rousseau McClellan is being held Friday, January 18, 2019, at 2:30 p.m. The program that will follow the march is called “Songs of Freedom” and will be held in the school’s gym.

Rousseau McClellan

VETERAN MARCHERS — Eighth-grade students in Rebecca Pfaffenberger’s class at Rousseau McClellan School 91 recently discussed the school’s annual Civil Rights March and its significance. They have been participating since Pre-K or second grade. Pictured (from left to right) are Nyla N., Valeria A., Jennifer D., Savannah M., and Jaxson G.