One by one, young children filled small plastic bags with pretzels and raisins. In addition to the trail mix bags, the students made small boxes to collect money. They are asked to put whatever amount they can inside the box and donate it to those who need it.

The activities and many others at The Newman School at Talmud Torah in St. Paul are in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King.

“We are making trail mix for people in need to honor him and what he did, said Ian Rosenberg-Scholl, a former student. “Everyone is equal, even though they don’t have everything other people have.”

For most Minnesota students, Martin Luther King Junior day is a day off school. For students at The Newman School, which includes students from preschool to second grade, it is an opportunity to learn more about the civil rights leader. The school opened its doors Monday to students and the community for an afternoon of music and activities related to King and his life’s work.

“In our tradition we study about people whose memories we want to preserve,” said Susan Cobin, principal of the private Jewish school. “We study their writing. We study their works and it’s not going to help anybody if these kids go to the mall.”

Students sang inspirational songs and teachers read books that reinforce the theme that all races are equal. “For us it’s a no-brainer,” said Cobin. “We stay in school. We sing. We study. We do service. We hope that it is a contagious disease and the children catch it, and in their lives, they go out and do these things.”

When interviewed, students didn’t seem to mind their day of learning, even as other schools got the day off.

“It’s important to remember him because he helped people, not only black people but Asian people,” said Carlin Kringle, a second-grader. “He wanted to make sure everyone was treated fairly and the color of their skin didn’t matter.”


Twitter: @vsawkar