What Can We Learn from a Box of Crayons?

Central elementary, a school in transition with an increasingly diverse student body, decided to focus this school year on diversity.
Grade Level

I wanted to help the 2nd- and 3rd-graders understand the concept of diversity and why they should celebrate it. Inspired by The Crayon Box that Talked (Random House, ISBN# 0679886117, $12.95), a story by Shane Derolf and Michael Letzig, I used a drawing exercise to help students discover the value of diversity.

I provided each student with two sheets of drawing paper, then allowed each student to pick out one crayon from a box I provided. I then asked them to draw a picture with only the single crayon. After about five minutes, I asked the students to take out their own boxes of crayons and draw another picture on the second sheet of paper; they could use as many different colors as they wished. When they finished coloring, I asked them the following questions:

Which picture do you like best? Why? Which picture would you like to display in your classroom, the hallway, at home?

Invariably, the students preferred the pictures drawn with the whole box of crayons. I said, "What a boring world it would be if we were all alike — like the picture drawn with only one crayon. The diversity in the world makes it like a wonderful box of crayons with endless colors."

Next, I read them The Crayon Box that Talked. To continue the discussion, I asked, "Wasn't it silly for the crayons not to like each other just because of their color? Each crayon had something special to offer to the picture — green for the grass, blue for the sky, yellow for the sun." The children agreed, and I asked them to brainstorm the reasons it is important to accept people who are different from us, recording their responses on the board.

In conclusion, I read a passage from an unknown author:

"We could learn a lot from crayons. ... (They) all are different colors, but they all exist very nicely in the same box."


—Trudi Pinnick Wolfe, counselor at Central Elementary School in Beech Grove, IN

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