What's Happening in Character?

Relevance, Relationships and Service Learning

Posted by Meghann Persenaire on Thu, Mar 23, 2017 @ 09:03 AM

Relevance A young man, formerly incarcerated, stood on our auditorium’s dimly lit stage, and asked our scholars the following question: “Raise your hand if you know someone who is currently or was recently in prison.” With each moment of silence that followed, dozens of scholars quietly raised their hands. Refoundry, a nonprofit that trains formerly incarcerated people to repurpose discarded materials into home furnishings, is one of a few organizations that our scholars partner with each year.

Each month, our scholars select a social or environmental issue or organization that is relevant to them, for which they are passionate. Our scholars select a social or environmental issue that directly affects their families and/or their communities in Harlem and the Bronx. Mrs. Stephanie Fernandez, who also mentors our student government, and Ms. Karina Perez, who also mentors our National Junior Society, mentor scholars and guide them as they write lesson plans, contact organizations, and write proposals to our school’s Board of Directors and administration. However, it is because these issues are selected by and relevant to our scholars that we witnessed the marriage of service and learning, that we saw a month dedicated to “Reducing Recidivism” or “Equality” go beyond the canned food drive.

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Topics: Service learning, Caring Community

Service Learning for Character and Academic Lessons

Posted by David Wangaard on Thu, Mar 16, 2017 @ 08:03 AM

"Your [service learning] program has allowed me to reach students that I thought were unreachable. Their entire outlook on school and on life has changed drastically; I truly cannot thank you enough.”
– 6th Grade Teacher

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Topics: Service learning, character

Students Take Action: Hunger Stops Here

Posted by Rebecca Bauer on Thu, Apr 7, 2016 @ 08:04 AM

By Rebecca Bauer

With the announcement of the 2016 Promising Practices only a few days away, I’m feeling excited to welcome a new batch of teachers and schools into our network. Promising Practices are an integral part of our work at Character.org because they give us the chance to recognize the amazing work happening in classrooms all around the world.

“These great ideas really highlight the creative efforts of outstanding teachers across the world,” said Dr. Dave Keller, Program Director. “It’s great to recognize what’s going well in the classroom. These practices represent practical, effective ways to develop empathy, conflict resolution skills, and good citizenship.”

Before we announce hundreds of new Promising Practices, I wanted to go back and share a 2015 Practice that I found inspiring. I love to read Promising Practices that focus on service learning because the students don’t merely scratch the service of giving back. Instead, they truly embody the key ingredients that make service learning effective.

Let’s take a look at some of the unique and compelling aspects of Beasley Elementary’s Promising Practice, Hunger Stops Here.

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Topics: Service learning

Creating Caring High Schools: Spotlight on Bayless High

Posted by Patrick McEvoy on Thu, Mar 24, 2016 @ 04:03 AM

By Emina Ahmetovic Grade 12, Meris Saric Grade 11 and Patrick McEvoy, Principal

Bayless High School is making students smarter, better and stronger. The students and staff feel so safe and secure at school that they never lock their lockers.

Yes, you read that correctly. 90% of the student body feels so safe that, in most cases, they never lock their hall lockers. The locks just hang on the locker handles like ornaments. They serve no security purpose in a school where everyone feels safe and their personal belongings are secured by the collective trust that each student has toward each other. They trust the environment they are in, so it makes it easier for the students to attend school over 96% of the time.

Some might wonder how this is accomplished.  Below are some of the ways the school does it.

Unconditional Support from Staff

Senior Taylor Owens said, “We feel safe in this school because of how close we are to our teachers and counselors. We have unconditional support from them, and I could not imagine going to any other high school.”

The students at Bayless High School enjoy including their staff in all of their activities and fundraisers. They host Teacher Talent Shows, Teacher Grammys, staff athletic events, and occasionally serve them breakfast or stock their faculty lounge fridge. At Bayless High School they have formed a home away from home making Bayless so unique, and safe, that many would doubt this could ever be achieved.  It is something you have to experience and see in order to fully understand.

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Topics: Service learning, Caring Classrooms,, Caring Community, Community Involvement

9 MLK Quotes to Inspire Your Day of Service

Posted by Rebecca Bauer on Mon, Jan 11, 2016 @ 07:01 AM

 

For a number of years now, the Corporation for National and Community Service has declared  Martin Luther King Day, “A Day On, Not a Day Off.” It is truly fitting that we honor this American hero by giving back to others.

For lesson plans, promising practices and articles on service learning, we encourage you to become a Character.org member to receive an official Day of Service Toolkit. For inspiration, read these words of wisdom from MLK.

 

1.

 

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Topics: Service learning

Giving and Receiving in the Holiday Spirit: A Challenge for Parents and Kids Alike

Posted by Phil Brown on Wed, Dec 23, 2015 @ 18:12 PM

By Philip Brown

Whether we are celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa, we can all agree that the holidays can bring out the best of us and the worst of us. As the big end of year holidays approach it is a common experience to get anxious about how much there is to do, whether we have enough gifts to make everyone happy, and if our celebration of family and religious traditions will go as we hope. Our motives may be the best, but execution is daunting.

For parents there is a particular dilemma that is in our face every day because of the commercialization of the holidays that begins in early November. How can we help our kids understand the joy of giving as well as the pleasure of receiving? How can I make it a holiday filled with love rather than a time of regret and emotional emptiness?

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Topics: Service learning, Parenting

6 Key Ingredients for Powerful Service Learning

Posted by Sheril Morgan on Mon, Dec 21, 2015 @ 04:12 AM

 

by Sheril Morgan, Director, Schools of Character

Entitlement.  Webster says the definition of entitlement is the feeling or belief that you deserve to be given something (such as special privileges). There have been many conversations about younger generations having a sense of entitlement these days. When parents ask their children to do something, it is often attached to a reward for carrying out the task.  Often children are paid for good grades on a report card, and we forget the power of making meaning which is pointed out in Marvin Berkowitz’s latest blog, “My Son is not My Dog.”   

The truth is, we all are inherently selfish, and yet we have an incredible capacity to give of ourselves. The holiday season tends to highlight both sides of humanity, our selfish and selfless tendencies.  Thankfully, what we become is often what is nurtured and this presents an amazing opportunity to educators.  This is the perfect opportunity to empower young people to serve their community!

Many educators cringe at the thought of service learning because there is so much misunderstanding of the term in educational circles. However, it doesn’t have to be a daunting experience, and with creativity and shared leadership, it can have a life of its own.

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Topics: Service learning, 11 Principles

Improving Motivation through Student Voice & Choice

Posted by Tamra Nast on Thu, Nov 19, 2015 @ 05:11 AM


By Tamra Nast, Birmingham Covington School Counselor
Edited by Lori Soifer, Michigan State Schools of Character Coordinator

There is no owner’s manual for parents and teachers to tell us how to help each child grow into ethical, empathetic and responsible learners, leaders and citizens. Students come to us with unique abilities and talents. I believe the development of self- motivation is a lifelong skill, and one that can be a powerful force in a person’s life.

Principle 7, of the 11 Principles of Character Education, emphasizes intrinsic motivation over extrinsic rewards. In other words, doing the right thing for no other reason than because it is the right thing to do. True satisfaction and joy come from finding meaning and purpose in what you do in life. This principle emphasizes true heart change over compliance, celebrating and recognizing over rewarding.

Meaningful service learning (embedded in the curriculum), allowing students' voice and choice, and implementing a discipline system focused on learning, fuel the growth of self-motivation in students.


Last year, a group of 30 middle school students from Birmingham Covington School, attended the
Character.org National Forum. They came to teach teachers about their service-learning project. What started as a local water project focused on sustainability grew into a global project focused on eliminating poverty in rural sub-Saharan Africa. The depth, breadth and scope of this project grew exponentially, all because their teacher, in fostering students’ self-motivation, allowed the class voice and choice, and nurtured each student’s talents to determine how best they could meet the goals of the project.

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Topics: Service learning, intrinsic motivation

Promising Practices in Service Learning

Posted by Rebecca Bauer on Thu, Oct 29, 2015 @ 09:10 AM

by Rebecca Bauer

Are you looking to revamp or improve your service learning program? Challenge yourself to go beyond the typical annual food drive or fundraiser. Read about these three schools’ unique and powerful practices and the lessons we can all learn from them. Consider how you can make these ideas work in your own community!

- Use service learning projects as an opportunity for students to hone their research skills.

At Carusi Middle School, in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, the Community Reading Program, Reading is My Superpower!, offers 6th, 7th and 8th graders the opportunity to inspire a love of reading in their younger peers. While many schools have reading buddies and peer mentoring programs, Carusi Middle School’s program stands out for its intentional approach.

Reading mentors take their jobs seriously and understand the importance of their work. Assistant Principal, Kelly McKenzie, shares that they “prepare for the field experience by researching the history of mentorship, selecting texts to read to their mentees and reading texts aloud to develop fluency through the Language Arts Enrichment course.” She adds, “This practice generally fosters strong leadership, models instructional excellence and promotes a positive school environment.”

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Topics: Service learning, promising practices

Why I Serve: A Student Perspective on Servant Leadership

Posted by Franchesca Ramirez on Thu, Aug 27, 2015 @ 08:08 AM

As a part of Principle 9, shared leadership, we aim to emphasize the crucial role students play in character education initiatives. One way we can value students’ contributions is by providing them the opportunity to share their own thoughts. Franchesca Ramirez, the author of this post, is a member of the Milton Hershey School Class of 2016.

We struggle to define a leader by their qualities alone because all leaders are uniquely composed of their own set of skills and traits. 

I have been blessed with my own unique composition over the span of my time at Milton Hershey School. I always had leadership potential, but the ignition of that flame was a result of the time and effort of various adults in my life. Individually, the teachers and advisors in my life at MHS have contributed their own efforts in ultimately making me the leader I am becoming, I will forever be in debt to these people I call mentors for the character they’ve inspired in me. For this reason, I was inspired to serve.

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Topics: Service learning, student voice, Student Leadership

Taking Service Learning to the Next Level: Cultivating Leaders

Posted by Rebecca Bauer on Tue, Mar 24, 2015 @ 10:03 AM

During March, as we have been focusing on principle 5, creating opportunities for moral action, we have been talking a lot about service learning. We showcased Cherry Hill Alternative High School’s service learning program . We shared our thoughts on the difference betw een service learning and community service. But perhaps your school already feels like it understands service learning and has a high quality program in place. Does that mean your journey is over? Nope, that means it is now your time to lead.

If your students are already leading your school in engaging and meaningful service learning projects then the next step is helping them take their own service projects to the next level by implementing them on a larger, community wide scale.

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Topics: Service learning

More Than Community Service: Creating Opportunities for Moral Action

Posted by Rebecca Sipos on Thu, Mar 12, 2015 @ 14:03 PM

Do you think you made a good choice?

Did you do the right thing?

These questions are in the school announcements, in the school song. They're everywhere, according to Schools of Character principal Kimmie Etheredge. Does that focus on doing the right thing make a difference?  Etheredge shared this story. "The manager of a store close to the school called to tell about a young child who found a $20 bill and turned it in to the service desk.When the service desk person complimented her on her honesty, the child said, “I’m a Granger Wrangler, and we always do the right thing.”

Doing the right thing is an important focus of principle 5, and the emphasis is on “action.” Students learn best by doing in the ethical domain just as they do in the intellectual domain. While recent blog posts have highlighted service learning projects, moral action can include opportunities in everyday classroom routines: showing respect for peers and adults, helping resolve a conflict, and participating in a cooperative learning activity. Each of these could provide a “teachable moment” for any teacher.

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Topics: Service learning, 11 Principles, Moral Action

How to Empower Students through Service Learning: Spotlight on Cherry Hill Alternative High

Posted by Rebecca Bauer on Wed, Mar 4, 2015 @ 09:03 AM

Flipping through our most recent, National Schools of Character Magazine, I was intrigued by a photo of students from Cherry Hill Alternative High School (Cherry Hill). Instead of sitting at desks in a classroom, they were out in their community, learning from local business leaders.

Eager to learn more about the school’s service learning initiatives, I called up Dawn Lacy, a counselor at the school. Through talking with Dawn and her colleagues, Diane O’Brien and Susan Gibbs, I learned how Cherry Hill’s service learning program has come to be so successful.

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Topics: Service learning

Character Resource Roundup: Tools to Help Teach Service Learning

Posted by Rebecca Bauer on Sun, Mar 1, 2015 @ 09:03 AM


In March, our blog will be focusing on opportunities for moral action, Principle 5 of our 11 Principles. Want your students to make that leap from moral thinking and feeling to moral action? Engage them in service learning projects.

Need Inspiration?

Service learning projects are most valuable and most fun when they are student-led initiatives. Help your students discover an issue that they’re passionate about and see what creative solutions they can dream up.

If you need a powerful story to show your students how much they can do when they put their minds to it, introduce them to Zachary Bonner. An accomplished philanthropist, Zach created the Little Red Wagon Foundation, an organization founded to provide aid to those affected by Hurricane Charley, when he was only 8 years old. Now the organization runs many successful community service projects including regularly distributing “zach packs” of food and supplies to homeless youth.

Are your students ready to follow Zach Bonner’s lead? Here are some of our favorite service learning resources.

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Topics: Service learning, Character Resource Roundup

What is your school doing for others? Reflecting on Service Learning

Posted by Rebecca Bauer on Mon, Jan 12, 2015 @ 16:01 PM

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’” - Martin Luther King, Jr.

Though a simple question, it is one we can never ask our students enough. The Corporation for National and Community Service urges us to consider the Martin Luther King Day, “a day on not a day off” and encourages us to use the free time that we have to give back to others. The Day of Service website provides a number of toolkits to help you plan projects for you and your class. You may also find this list of resources from EducationDive helpful as well.

Even with these resources, getting your students excited about service learning can still be challenging. To provide some inspiration, I’d like to share the story of Lafayette Township School’s award winning community service day, Branching Out with the Bulls.

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Topics: character, promising practices, compassion, Service learning

Our Friends in the Philippines – Please Help

Posted by Russ Sojourner on Thu, Nov 14, 2013 @ 09:11 AM

As you all know, the stories coming from the Philippines are terrible and heartbreaking.  The extent of the devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan (called Yolanda in the Philippines) is not yet known, but the loss of life and property is perhaps too high to even comprehend.

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Topics: character, Service learning, empathy, social responsibility

The OCHO Project: Read for a Need--Teaching Children to Help Others

Posted by Rebecca Sipos on Sun, Sep 29, 2013 @ 19:09 PM

By Marilyn Perlyn

The OCHO Project: Read for a Need(Opportunities for Children to Help Others) exposes children to the joys of reading while teaching them that they can help others less fortunate than themselves. It is an elementary school program in which students embark on a 6-8 week literacy journey that is infused with eighteen character traits and service learning.

Children are asked several months later if they would like to share a book with another child in a different part of the world. Each year, donated books are brought to a different country by Marilyn Perlyn, founder of the OCHO Project. Books have already been donated to kids in need in Tanzania, India, Vietnam, Laos, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Kenya, and Namibia. In 2014 we will visit China!

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Topics: character education, key lessons, what works in education, Service learning, character education in curriculum, National Forum, international education, CEPForum13, Perlyn Maryilyn

Promising Practices Spotlight: Bonneville Elementary School

Posted by Jesse Marble on Wed, Mar 13, 2013 @ 10:03 AM

Bonneville Elementary School – Salt Lake City, UT

Program: Go Green

Bonneville Elementary School in Salt Lake City, Utah, created a Promising Practice called the “Go Green” Team. Third-graders discovered how to “Go Green” through activities such as the Morning Mile, the “Go Green” Operas, the Recycled Gifts Boutique, and the Recycling Science Fair project.

The Morning Mile improved academic scores, health, and taught children the benefits of walking over driving: less driving decreases air pollution and global warming. The students explored the meaning of reduce, reuse, recycle, as well as how to promote renewable energy sources by producing an original “Go Green” opera to share with the community.

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Topics: Service learning, character education in curriculum, promising practices

National School of Character Helps Neighboring School after Sandy

Posted by Lara Maupin on Thu, Nov 29, 2012 @ 09:11 AM

Richard Stockton Elementary (2012 National School of Character) students were busy in the week before Thanksgiving as they worked on their service efforts to help those impacted by Superstorm Sandy. On Tuesday, students, staff, and parents traveled with the donations they had collected to Brigantine, New Jersey, home of 2011 NSOC Brigantine Elementary.

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Topics: National School of Character, Service learning, resiliency

National Schools of Character Lead Post-Sandy Service Learning

Posted by Lara Maupin on Wed, Nov 21, 2012 @ 09:11 AM

Eloisa DeJesus-Woodruff, Principal of 2012 National School of Character (NSOC) Richard Stockton Elementary in Cherry Hill, New Jersey was so moved by the devastation being faced by her fellow citizens in New Jersey and New York in the wake of Sandy that she returned from the National Forum ready to act. She had a vision of mobilizing the National Schools of Character to help those in need – other NSOC communities that were impacted as well as anyone else who needed help through the Red Cross. She hoped her students could help others and would have the opportunity to share stories with other students in other communities around the country. Knowing the power of service learning in her own community, she envisioned how much impact the NSOCs could have by working together.

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Topics: CEPLeaders, National School of Character, Service learning, leadership, resiliency

Words into Action: Service Learning as a Teaching Strategy

Posted by Cathy Berger Kaye on Tue, Oct 9, 2012 @ 10:10 AM

What is Service Learning?

Simply put, service learning occurs in classrooms as students connect academics—skills and content—with authenticated community needs. Students grow a garden in science class that provides produce for a food bank or orphanage. While studying about World War II, students interview veterans of a past or current war to gain a deeper understanding of the particularities that affect men and women who serve, and use these stories to create a publication or performance to share what they learned with others. Students might take on an environmental issue, like the preponderance of single-use plastic water bottles that fill up dumpsters everywhere. They can use their persuasive writing abilities to develop a convincing marketing campaign for reusable water bottles and create PSAs to broadcast on local radio. And after interviewing the head of a local school with minimum resources, students have connected classroom studies to creating teaching resources that improve educational opportunities in their own backyard.

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Topics: Service learning, Forum Speakers, character education in curriculum, National Forum

Empathy in Action

Posted by Marilyn Perlyn on Wed, Aug 1, 2012 @ 11:08 AM

When my oldest son, Chad, was fourteen, he started a service learning project and was able to secure free medical and dental care for local children in our community who had no insurance. The lessons that Chad experienced as a teen stuck with him and now, at age 38, as a young pediatric plastic surgeon, those experiences are ingrained in him as he continues along his life journey. He just returned from his sixth trip to Haiti to help children who required surgeries following the devastating earthquake that happened in 2010.

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Topics: Service learning, National Forum, family, teachable moments

Connecting Service Learning to Character and Academic Growth

Posted by David Wangaard on Tue, Jul 17, 2012 @ 12:07 PM

David Wangaard, Ed.D., is the Director of the School for Ethical Education and author of this post.

In working or visiting with teachers, I often find they think service learning is just adult-led community service. Service learning is, however, quite distinct from community service. See the eight quality standards for service learning that The National Youth Leadership Council (NYLC) has published to define effective practice. 

I want to talk about three of these standards to highlight how they advance excellent character and academic growth in students: 

  1. Students are engaged in planning, implementing and evaluating the project;
  2. Teachers plan into the project specific academic objectives aligned with school curricular goals or standards; and
  3. All project participants engage in formative and summative reflection.

All three of these standards, in addition to the other five noted by the NYLC, create a meaningful distinction between traditional community service and the robust teaching strategy of service learning. These standards are also linked to many of Character.org's 11 Principles.

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Topics: National School of Character, Service learning, character education in curriculum

What Graduates Really Need to Know

Posted by Zoe Weil on Thu, May 3, 2012 @ 12:05 PM

This excerpted blog article is reposted with permission from Zoe Weil, an honored and esteemed speaker at our upcoming National Forum on Character Education. It was originally posted here. Zoe was also recently featured in Forbes Magazine, discussing the heart of education.

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Topics: no child left behind, what works in education, Service learning, Forum Speakers, graduation

Earth Day Service-Learning Ideas

Posted by Katie Hood on Tue, Apr 17, 2012 @ 16:04 PM

Many educators believe that when a student has a personal connection to the subject that they are studying, student retention is higher and true learning takes place. Connecting emotion to academics gives students and teachers a way to learn together, while still embracing the new core standards. Service and project-based learning is a perfect way to infuse the curriculum with an emotional component.

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Topics: Service learning, character education in curriculum

Bullying Prevention: What Really Works

Posted by Lara Maupin on Tue, Apr 10, 2012 @ 15:04 PM

There’s been a great deal of nationwide interest in the issue of bullying lately, with good reason since about one-quarter of our nation’s students report being bullied regularly. Despite the intensified focus, many well-meaning parents, educators, and leaders are left wondering what exactly they should do to stop peer cruelty and prevent possible tragedies. Zero tolerance? Anti-bullying coordinators? Legislation? Assemblies? Curriculum? What really works? Where can educators get the most bang for their buck and make the biggest positive impact on the young people in their care?

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Topics: bullying advice, National School of Character, Service learning

Veterans Day - A Teachable Moment

Posted by Joe Mazzola on Sun, Nov 6, 2011 @ 17:11 PM

I had the great fortune of being raised by a loving family. They instilled in me certain values that shaped me into the person I am today. None of the adults in my family had much of a formal education though. My grandfather, for example, came to our country at the age of 10 with about a fifth grade education. He was a water boy on the railroad and later became a shoemaker.

My father never graduated from high school either. He fixed wrecked cars for a living and eventually owned his own shop--“Mazzola’s Body Shop.” It never had running water or central heat. During the winter, he burned coal in a pot-belly stove to warm the place up. I loved hanging out at his shop, and I learned a lot, too. Most people don’t know it, but I’ve painted cars, changed engines, installed transmissions, and I still service my own vehicles. In fact, I’m doing a brake job on my son’s car this weekend.

Oh. I forgot to mention why my dad never graduated from high school.

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Topics: Service learning, integrity, family

The Expenses of Prom

Posted by Rebecca Sipos on Mon, May 16, 2011 @ 17:05 PM

Prom, a night intended to be full of fun and revelry, can often be an enormous burden on students from lower-income backgrounds. The need to get the perfect dress or tuxedo, find transportation, partake of a fancy meal, and then perhaps coordinate an after-party (in a safe, legal environment) can be a truly stressful experience for those students.

For this reason, it is always heart-warming to hear about schools or programs that have taken it on themselves to make prom night an option for all who want to attend by alleviating some of the financial considerations surrounding the event.

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Topics: Service learning, student voice, character education in high school

Earth Day Activities

Posted by Rebecca Sipos on Fri, Apr 22, 2011 @ 17:04 PM

In honor of Earth Day today, April 22nd, here are some highlights from our resources related to the environment, science, and "going green." When you have a chance, be sure to check out the rest of the lesson plans and best practices provided by our wonderful exemplary schools.

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Topics: Service learning, character education in curriculum

Bowls for Hunger

Posted by Rebecca Sipos on Mon, Mar 14, 2011 @ 18:03 PM

CEP's March focus is Principle 5: Providing Opportunities for Moral Action. The following service learning idea was submitted by Tina Sohn, Art Teacher & District Character Leader, Sullivan Primary School a 2010 Nationa School of Character, Sullivan, Missouri . We'd love to hear what your school is doing.

Sullivan Primary School (pre-K through first grade) weaves character into every facet of their day. At such an early age, students are given many opportunities to apply values in everyday discussions and play.

One project that started as a small building service project grew to a district-wide project that now includes every campus in the school district, community businesses, citizens, parents, children, and school staff. The “Bowls for Hunger “soup supper night brings all stakeholders together for an exciting night with donations of goods and services as well as building relationships.

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Topics: character education, Character Education News, National School of Character, Service learning, character education in curriculum, Character Ed Infused in Curriculum, student voice

History of Julian - Youth Service Project

Posted by Rebecca Sipos on Mon, Mar 14, 2011 @ 17:03 PM

Nancy Younce submitted this story of one of Julian Elementary School's service projects.

The students at Julian Elementary School, a have been focusing on showcasing their Service Learning Projects each year on Global Youth Service Day.  This has made the projects more meaningful to them, with guidance and instruction for high quality service learning.

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Topics: National School of Character, Service learning, character education in curriculum