It’s what’s inside that counts

Kindergarten classes at Park Side Elementary School got a lesson on first impressions

Photo by Jody Isaackson In celebrating Martin Luther King Day, two of Park Side Elementary School’s kindergarten classes conducted a vote on two differently wrapped packages and found out they don’t always containing the same sweet thing inside as the wrapping might suggest. Fortunately, the two classes gave each other the box containing the treats. Standing by their vote poster in the hall outside Kelsey Austin’s classroom are four of her students that participated in the vote: Jasmine Rodriguez, Maher Hussein, Ler Say and Amiyah Moos.


February has traditionally been a month to study the presidents of the United States. It has also become a tradition to learn about Black History and famous African Americans.

This year, two of Park Side’s eight kindergarten classes learned about prejudice for Martin Luther King Day and that the outside does not always reflect the inside.

In a class project that involved both Kelsey Austin’s and Susan Strautz’s students, the teachers conducted an experiment that gave win-win results, even though at first it seemed as though their students had failed the test.

“Before Martin Luther King Day, before we introduced him, each wrapped up two boxes of the same size and shape,” Austin said. “One was wrapped in newspaper. The other was wrapped in brightly-colored paper with a huge bow on it. When you shook them, they sounded the same, they rattled the same.”

But what was inside each box varied a good deal. One box in each classroom contained a treat, the other was not.

“We told the students that we were going to take a vote. They would choose one box to open and keep. They could have whatever was inside,” Austin said. “The present that does not get the most votes gets to go to another kindergarten class. Whatever is inside that box, the other class could have.”

The class voted.

“I think we had four votes for the newspaper one,” Austin said. “Everyone else voted for the brightly-colored one with the big bow on it.”

The teachers had anticipated that from the beginning, so they planned to exchange boxes with each other.

After the vote was taken, each class opened both boxes before sharing the “losing” box’s contents.

When they opened up the one that they did not vote for, the newspaper-wrapped box, inside were Tootsie Rolls.

“They were so excited about that,” Austin said. “Then we opened up ours and there were just rocks in there.”

The students weren’t very happy about not getting their Tootsie Rolls until the classes exchanged boxes and the students got a treat after all.

“Then we tied that back to how you can’t judge something or someone by their outside. It’s the inside that counts,” Austin said. “We then tied that back to Martin Luther King and how he didn’t want anyone judged by the outside. He wanted everyone judged by their character,” she said.

The teachers followed the vote by introducing King, showing their classes a video about him and reading a couple of books about him.

Austin’s class roster is made up of nearly 50 percent Caucasian and nearly 50 percent other ethnicities.

“Out of 23 students, 12 are Caucasian. We also have Somali, Hispanic and Karen,” she said, “but we took the opportunity to review the concept with the holiday.”

They also discussed how even people of the same nationality can have varied skin tones, she said.

“We even put our hands in a circle and talked about how they were all different colors and shades,” Austin said. “When I talked bout it with kindergartners, I just used ‘darker-colored skin people couldn’t do as many things as lighter-skinned people could (in Martin Luther King’s time).'”

Since there is so much diversity here, now, the kids just kind of grow up with it being a way of life, she said.

“My class is very accepting of each other,” Austin said.