Peaceful Lessons from Peaceful Leaders: I'm A Leader, Too!

February is a time often reserved for the celebration of past leaders and visionaries who fought peacefully and intellectually to provide us with more opportunities for a more privileged future.
Grade Level


  • Construction paper
  • circle dye-cutter (optional)
  • hole-puncher
  • yarn
  • crayons
  • markers



Using a dye-cutter, or by tracing a medium sized circle on a piece of paper, cut out two circles for every student in your class, prior to the lesson. One circle should have a hole punched on the top and bottom of it; the other should just have a hole punched on the top.

Next, cut two pieces of yarn, string or ribbon for every child in the class – one piece should be 18 inches, the other should be 3 inches. (If time and skills permit, students could do this portion on their own as a math activity.)

Choosing a book from the library, read the class a story about an African American leader of past or present. If time permits, you could read multiple stories in order to provide students with more exposure to more leaders. Write the name of the leader(s) discussed on the board.

After reading the story, discuss the facts with students. Who was the leader? Why was he or she important? What did he or she do for his or her community – and for our country? Are the contributions made by this leader unique? Write the key words describing the leader(s) on the board.

Next, engage students in a dialog about their own leadership skills and capabilities. Ask students to compare themselves to the leaders you just read about. Write key words on the board that students use to describe themselves as leaders.

Distribute the circle with two holes to each student. Have the children write the name of the leader discussed across the top of the circle, underneath the top hole. Next, have them write at least 3 of the adjectives describing that person on the bottom of the circle. Finally, have the students draw a picture of that individual in the middle of the circle.

Now distribute the circle with only one hole. Have students write their own names underneath the top hole. On the bottom of the circle, have students write three adjectives to describe themselves as leaders. In the center, ask students to draw pictures of themselves.

Pass out the three-inch string to the students and have them tie a knot between the bottom hole of the first circle and the top hole of the second. (Younger students will need help.)

Next, hand out the 18-inch string and have students loop it through the top hole of the first circle and then tie it around their neck, making a necklace.

At this time, let students walk around the room to show friends their necklaces and to tell them about the connections between the famous leader and themselves.

Teaching Tolerance collage of images

Welcome to Learning for Justice—Formerly Teaching Tolerance!

Our work has evolved in the last 30 years, from reducing prejudice to tackling systemic injustice. So we’ve chosen a new name that better reflects that evolution: Learning for Justice.

Learn More