My bright and slightly obsessive son has been completely fascinated by Martin Luther King Jr's "I Have A Dream" speech since he heard it on a documentary we watched on MLK day. When he had the chance, he checked out a book entitled "Martin's Big Words" and read it over and over again.

Then he hit the jack pot. His class is learning about biographies and each student was tasked with a biography project to celebrate American history. He could've written a report, an essay, or a poem, or created a diorama. Can you guess which one he chose? Let's just say the kid can't pass up the opportunity to sit at the table and make crafts with me for hours on end. A diorama it was.

He quickly came up with his vision for the project: Children of different races standing together with Dr. King in the background. Then I broke out the supplies to help him make it a reality. Javi did the coloring and decision making; I did the cutting, gluing, and rearranging. As he colored a public city bus or created buildings for the cityscape and trees for the park, we talked about Dr. King's message and why this particular speech resonated with him so much and how it affected the world we live in.

But as educational as it was, the process was tedious, too. When your child lacks impulse control, gets frustrated easily, or loses track of what he's supposed to be doing, it can be difficult to move something from Point A all the way to Point B. I anticipated that when we started, so we sketched out a "vision board" that showed what he wanted the diorama to look like. That way, when he got lost in the details (like how his boy needed hair and a shirt and pants and shoes), he could orient himself and stay in control rather than try to slip me the lead and let me tell him what to do.

Of course, this project was completed on the back of tremendous amounts of positive coaching and encouragement. He'd doubt something or want to give up on some component, and I'd say to him, "If you want it to look that way, then let's make it look that way," or "This is your project, what do you think the boy should look like," and "Do you like that? Then that's the way it should be!" I think it helped him develop some confidence and take ownership of the project to know that I fully supported his decisions. (But boy was that hard!)

We've been working on this diorama for two weeks. When we put the finishing touches on it tonight (it's due Friday -- so we're a whole day early!), he was beyond thrilled with what he had created. "It looks like a miniature world in there," he said to anyone who walked past it. He kept fiddling with the boy and girl, worrying over the bus, trying to add detail to the trees. He's most definitely in love. And though he casually remarked that I did a great job on my project, after we sat down and talked about it, he realized this was his accomplishment.

And then he asked me to "interview" him about it, because he's proud and enthusiastic and wants to remember this project. But as soon as I turned the camera on, he got all weird and robotic and sweaty. We tried four takes and he finally made it through the fifth one. Through the video, I learned that my child's fascination with Dr. King has been replaced by an undying desire to make dioramas. Because that's what he's learned, you know.

And guess what he told me when I gave him his hugs and kisses before bed? "Tomorrow we can start on Paul Revere!"


  • Debbie

    Oh, that's wonderful. How fantastic that he became drawn to someone so admirable. Great video.

  • Kelly Miller

    I'm really proud of him, though I am not at all looking forward to doing another one so soon. I'm going to push him to write a poem or story about Paul Revere instead. Wish me luck!

  • CaneWife

    First of all, dioramas are about the coolest thing ever and I cannot WAIT until Turtle needs to make some for school. I remember one that I made on harp seals where my mom and I actually carved a seal from a block of Ivory soap. But I digress.

    What an awesome project, and how amazing to see his enthusiasm level. That's got to just fill you with so much pride.

    Way to go, mom!

  • Kelly Miller

    We didn't have dioramas when I was growing up, so this was pretty cool for me, too. I can't believe y'all carved a seal out of soap. Your mom deserves an award for creativity!

  • Kelly Miller

    Oh - and side note. While we were making this diorama, he also learned about Gertrude Ederle who was the first swimmer to cross the English Channel. Go America! He made a mixed media art piece of her swimming, but he took it before I could snag a photo.

    I highly recommend biography projects for the 8-10 year old set!

  • Cheryl

    What a great diorama, Javi! Way to go!

  • Draft Queen

    Wow! That came out fantastic! I wish I was as patient as you are. The "vision board" was a great idea, I think I'll steal it for the "invention" my son has due in April.

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