creating schools and communities of character 

                                                                                                                                September/October 2010

An electronic newsletter to help make sure character counts!


CHARACTER COUNTS! and the Six Pillars of Character are service marks of the CHARACTER COUNTS! Coalition, a project of the Josephson Institute of Ethics.  For more information about training opportunities and resources available to assist schools and communities in the integration of a character education initiative, check out their web site at: or call them at 1-800-711-2670.



Whenever I begin a workshop on character education, I share the following beliefs:

·         Children learn best when they learn core ethical values – trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship;

·         Others may not listen to what we say but they believe what we do – the importance of modeling;

·         Your community will be a great place to live, work and learn when the core ethical values are recognizable and respected by parents, youth organizations, businesses and community members.


You see, character education is truly a way of life based upon a framework of shared beliefs and consensus values.  Being educated on character is not something that others do to students – a lesson to be taught, a worksheet to complete or an event to attend.  Rather, our goal is for students to be able to personalize character.  What we need to have students ask is this: How will my being respectful, honest, caring or more responsible allow me, as a student, to meet short term and long-range goals?  As adults, we need to equip students with the necessary skills in order to make good choices. When adults are encouraged to be intentional about what they say and do around core ethical values, license is given for a character education initiative to move from words to action.  By doing so, a personal commitment to improving one’s own character will lead students and adults on the journey of being better tomorrow than they are today,


I believe that character is both caught and taught.  The adult role models who come in contact with the students in school, our own children, or those kids who attend activities in the community, have a significant impact upon the development of good character.  Michelle Kwan once said, “As adults, we do not have a choice about whether we want to be a role model or not.  You can be a good model or a bad model.  Which do you choose?”  But in addition to catching good character from the modeling of adults, I also believe that improving our character is a matter of intentional effort.  The shared beliefs and consensus values are really outcomes we would like to see more of in our schools, homes and throughout a community.  Whether it is our personal goal or what we desire to see in children and young people, being more respectful, honest, caring and responsible can be key indicators on which we evaluate the effectiveness of living a life based upon character.


I encourage you to continue to be an integral part of teaching others that character does count!


Gary M. Smit




A school district hosted a summer kid’s camp on character.  This three (3) day program is designed to help students understand what can be done to make the character values by a part of their school and personal life.  The camp has different sections based upon grade level.  There is a camp for primary students, another for intermediate grades, a summer camp for middle schools students and one for high schoolers.  Lessons and activities are presented in a way to help students see what they can do to be a person of character.  Here is an agenda for one of the camps:


DAY ONE      6TH GRADE – 8TH GRADE               9:30am – 1:30pm

9:30 – 10:00  Introduction

Activity #1  - Name Game-Adjectives · Activity #2 - Jump Rope-HS student

10:00 – 10:15  What is Character?

Define character - Aspen declaration

10:15 – 10:45 · Activity #3 - Small group breakout

Groups present – define Character

10:45 – 11:15     Who Are Your Sources of Character?

Activity #4 - Role Models in Your Life  · Introduce the Pillars - TRRFCC

11:15 – 11:30

Activity #5 -- Hula Hoop

11:30-12:00 Whole Group Activity – Character Parade

12:00 – 12:45 LUNCH

12:45 – 1:00

 Activity #6 - Whole Group - Scavenger Hunt

1:00 – 1:30 What are the Six Pillars of Character?

TRRFCC – describe each Pillar briefly   · Review colors

Activity #7 - - Trust Walk   - Activity #8 - Egg Intro-10 minutes to decorate


DAY TWO       6TH GRADE – 8TH GRADE               9:30am – 1:30pm

9:30 – 10:30 Introduction · Activity #1 - Name Game/Toss a Ball

10:30 – 10:45  · Activity #2 - Review of Previous Day - (give candy for correct answers)

What is something positive you took away  from yesterday?

What is Character? What are the Six Pillars of Character? What is Character Counts!?

10:45 – 11:00

Activity #3 -  Character Bumper Sticker

11:00 – 11:45 Trustworthiness

Kids define; Definition

Activity #4 - Trust Tower


Kids define; Definition

Activity #5 -  Create comic strip/skit/commercials

12:00 – 12:45 LUNCH

12:45 – 1:00 Whole Group - Pillar Hand Activity

1:00 – 1:30 Respect

Presenter (National Trainer to Present)

 EGG Check In

1:25-1:30  Closing - Remind students about skits/ commercials/songs to present


DAY THREE       6TH GRADE – 8TH GRADE               9:30am – 1:30pm

9:30 – 10:00 Introduction  · Activity #1 - “Cross the River”

Review of Previous Day - Trustworthiness; - Respect; - Responsibility

10:00 – 10:30 Caring

Kids define; Definition

Activity #2 - Appreciation-Index Cards


 Kids define; Definition

Activity #3 - Citizenship Video

10:30-11:00 Whole  Group Presentations-Adults

11:00 – 11:30 Putting Character Counts! Into Action

School (group students according to schools)

What are the needs of your school?

How are we going to address those needs?

                 1.Your school needs education on Pillars

                 2. Begin to train/create respect pledges/contracts

Sharing responses to the above questions

11:30 – 12:00 Personal Life Individual Activity

What are your needs?  Index Cards-No Name; How are you going to meet those needs?

12:00 – 12:45 LUNCH

12:45 – 1:00 Whole Group Six Pillar Shuffle

1:00 – 1:15 Community – All Student Discussion

What are your needs?  How are you going to meet those needs?

1:15 – 1:30 Web Activity - Although we are individuals, we are connected in many ways



A list of successful strategies was collected from numerous teachers and administrators, and compiled by the staff of the Center for the Advancement of Ethics and Character at Boston University.  Check out their web link for the list. Or, you can go to the page on my web site - to find the printable list.



Brooks, David and Goble, Frank G. (1997). The Case for Character Education: The Role of the School in Teaching Values and Virtues. Northridge, CA: Studio 4 productions.


This book by Brooks and Goble is a revision of their original 1983 version. While there is much overlap between these books, the new edition has much to offer. This would be a good introductory book to make available to teachers (and parents) in a school serious about attempting to address character education in its curriculum. Many useful perspectives are presented, particularly in chapters 8 and 9 ("How to Teach Character" and "Character Education--Where are We Going") and in several of the appendices (particularly C, "What Makes Character Education programs Work").


The first set of chapters present an overview of the domain of character education, citing data and history, much of it from the original 1983 version of the book and thus somewhat dated. A chapter on the separation of church and state is still significant and should calm fears of some parents about the intent of such programs. But the real value of this book for teachers is to be found in chapters 8 and 9. It is here that questions are posed that concern them: make character education a stand alone program or infuse it throughout the curriculum:

·                    What do the California reform documents (Caught in the Middle, It's Elementary , etc.) say about character education?

·                    What are some good examples of character education programs I can look at and use?

·                    How can I evaluate the effects of such programs?

·                    How can I get my school community to become involved and supportive?



Bully Busting


Children reflect on the issue of respect in journal-writing exercises and discussions.



One small notebook for each youngster

One pen or pencil for each youngster



Either as a take-home or in-class assignment, have the youngsters write short entries in a "respect journal." First, discuss what it means to be respectful. Write down the following points on the chalkboard and tell them to list these on the first page of their journals as a reminder of what respect means: upholding the Golden Rule (treating others as you would like to be treated), resolving conflicts nonviolently, showing courtesy, and considering everyone.


This activity should be done with regularity (every day, every other day, or once a week) and followed by a discussion about what they've written. Have them make journal entries about respect beginning with the following sentence stems:

1. When talking with other people, I show respect by . . .

2. I can be a better listener by . . .

3. When people make fun of me, I feel . . .

4. People show their respect for me when . . .

5. Insulting others is . . .

6. My parents know I respect them when . . .

7. My parents respect me by . . .


This lesson is from the Good Ideas book, available for purchase from the CHARACTER COUNTS! online store:   Inspired by How to Handle Bullies, Teasers and Other Meanies by Kate Cohen-Posey (Highland City, FL: Rainbow Books, 1995) and by ideas posted on



Gifts from the Heart Are Gifts of the Heart


According to legend, a young man roaming the desert came across a spring of delicious, crystal-clear water. The water was so sweet he filled his leather canteen so he could bring some back to a tribal elder who had been his teacher.


After a four-day journey, he presented the water to the old man, who took a deep drink, smiled warmly, and thanked his student lavishly for the sweet water. The young man returned to his village with a happy heart.


Later, the teacher let another student taste the water. He spat it out, saying it was awful. It apparently had become stale because of the old leather container. The student challenged his teacher: "Master, the water was foul. Why did you pretend to like it?"


The teacher replied, "You only tasted the water. I tasted the gift. The water was simply the container for an act of loving kindness and nothing could be sweeter. Heartfelt gifts deserve the return gift of gratitude."


I think we understand this lesson best when we receive innocent gifts of love from young children. Whether it's a ceramic tray or a macaroni bracelet, the natural and proper response is appreciation and expressed thankfulness because we love the idea within the gift.


Gratitude doesn't always come naturally. Unfortunately, most children and many adults value only the thing given rather than the feeling embodied in it. We should remind ourselves and teach our children about the beauty and purity of feelings and expressions of gratitude. After all, gifts from the heart are really gifts of the heart.


This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.