That’s it. Using just four simple mouse clicks, I went from the Character.org homepage to viewing 100 real-world examples of character education integrated into everyday classroom curriculum learning opportunities.
Specifically, I utilized the extensive Character.org Promising Practices database to find examples of Principle 6 of the 11 Principles of Effective Character Education. I could’ve easily asked to see examples from any of the other 11 Principles, but since April’s Essential Character emphasis is Principle 6, that’s the one I selected.
It gets better. If I had wanted to go crazy --- completely willy-nilly --- I could’ve made another 2-3 mouse clicks and narrowed my search by grade level or any combination of over 30 topical headings. Wild.
My point is simple and direct: The Promising Practices database is a fantastic resource, available FREE of charge, to everyone. I want it to be better utilized as a resource for educators around the world.
Since this month’s emphasis is on Principle 6, I selected a few salient examples from our database to include in this article. You’ll see those listed below.
Just as a refresher, though, I want to remind everyone about the definition and primary aspects of Principle 6:
Principle 6. “The school offers a meaningful and challenging academic curriculum that respects all learners, develops their character, and helps them to succeed.”
Key indicators of success for Principle 6 are:
- 6.1 The academic curriculum provides meaningful and appropriate challenges to all students.
- 6.2 The school staff identifies, understands, and accommodates the diverse interests, cultures, and learning needs of all students.
- 6.3 Teachers promote the development of performance character traits that support students’ intellectual growth, academic performance, and capacity for both self-direction and teamwork.
Outstanding character educators consistently look for ways that character can be developed in and through everyday teaching and learning. When teachers bring to the fore the character dimension of their classes --- especially in engaging, active, and individualized methods --- they enhance the relevance of subject matter and content area skills to students’ natural interests.
As promised, here are just a few examples from the past few years of Principle 6 in action:
Oakville Middle School (St. Louis, MO)
Developing Knowledge and Values through Mathematics
The mastery of mathematics can be difficult and learning to have empathy can also be a challenging concept for eighth graders. Through this activity the students learn how to apply the concepts of volume and surface area in geometry to real world materials, namely cans and boxes of food, while contributing to the community. They work in cooperative heterogeneous groups to find the measurements and calculate the volume and area of the items. As a final goal towards learning empathy, the class then donates the cans and boxes, approximately 500, to the local food pantry.
The Felisa Rincon de Gautier Institute for Law and Public Policy (Bronx, NY)
The Historian's Creed
Historian's Creed is a weekly interactive and character-based exercise that provides students an opportunity to put their knowledge of history to the test by reliving past events through the eyes of the world's leaders. Students are briefed on a major world event from the period in history studied earlier in the week, assigned to a particular country, and asked to craft their nation's responses to the crisis. In this way, students simulate and react to some of the most formative moments of the twentieth century, like the 1929 stock market crash and the Depression, Hitler's 1936 Olympics in Berlin, or the Soviet Union's 1949 nuclear testing and dawn of the Cold War arms race. To complete their assignment, students must integrate their historical knowledge with moral decision-making.
Mill Pond School (Westborough, MA)
African United Interdisciplinary Project
The African United Interdisciplinary Project teaches the students and staff (as well as the Westborough community) about the countries and diversity throughout the continent of Africa. Approximately 100 sixth-grade students participate in the program. Each student chooses an African country he/she would like to research. On the annual Africa United Day, students showcase the culmination of this six-week interdisciplinary project. Social studies, language arts, math, science, and art are integrated and character education is embedded throughout the entire project.
Carmel Elementary School (Woodstock, GA)
5th Graders Create Books for Peru Orphans
Fifth grade students at Carmel ES integrated the writing process with their service project in order to create 39 bilingual books for children in a Peru orphanage. The students first created rough drafts of their stories in English, translated them into Spanish using a translation website, and then made corrections before writing them onto the book binding paper. Spanish-speaking students double-checked the stories for understanding and made sure the translations were correct. The students also illustrated the books by using colored pencils, bound the books with hard-back covers and adhered laminate title pages to the front covers. Student authors wrote their stories in a variety of literary genres such fiction, fantasy, fairytales, and non-fiction. Students hoped to make a difference in the lives of the Peru children by promoting reading and learning a new language (English).
Colegio Radians (Cayey, Puerto Rico)
Experimental Research Center for Sustainable Agriculture (ERCSA)
Radians High School has recently implemented an agricultural project: the Experimental Research Center for Sustainable Agriculture (ERCSA Project). The students are aware of the continuing and growing food crisis faced by many third-world nations. In an effort to direct students' interest in agricultural methods, the school established an agricultural program. The objective is to provide the student with a challenging and unique curriculum program. The project allows them to have hands-on experience and develop an appreciation of agriculture and agricultural methods. Understanding that the world food supply is crucial to the survival of people, students study different agricultural methods starting from the small, but growth-intensive “Square Foot Gardening” to conventional and hydroponic systems. The students are then trained in these agricultural methods. Parents offer their services as resources for this project.