Teaching character education one pillar at a time – Part 1: Trustworthiness

Now more than ever, we need to continue the teaching of character education and focusing on the six pillars of character, starting with trustworthiness.

Michigan State University Extension’s 4-H Youth Development Programs offer youth ages 5 to 19 years old a chance to learn new skills, make decisions and healthy choices and have fun. Whether youth join a 4-H club or attend a one-time training, character education can be incorporated in the program or club meeting. Now more than ever, character education needs to be on the agenda.

The Josephson Institute of Ethics was founded by Michael Josephson in 1987. Josephson brought a coalition of youth-serving and educational organizations together to start the character education movement called CHARACTER COUNTS!, which became public in 1992. The Six Pillars of Character are the core ethical values of CHARACTER COUNTS! They are:

  1. Trustworthiness
  2. Respect
  3. Responsibility
  4. Fairness
  5. Citizenship
  6. Caring

In each of the pillars, information is shared to teach the specific trait and youth are given a chance to practice it by doing the hands-on educational games. Information is given for all age groups, which include puppets and plays for K–6 and more in-depth curriculum for junior high and high school-age youth.

CHARACTER COUNTS! continues to reflect current research and best practices for academic, social and emotional skills and traits as well as the six pillars.

In Part 1 of this six-part series, we will focus on trustworthiness—the first of the six pillars. Each pillar has a color associated with the word. Blue is the color for trustworthiness and some of the traits are:

  • Be honest
  • Be loyal
  • Think “true blue”
  • Be reliable
  • Do the right thing

An activity that can be used to teach trustworthiness for elementary youth is called “A Walk in the Dark.” In each lesson, the overview is shared and a list of materials needed is provided. The procedure is then shared giving step-by-step on how to teach and what questions to ask.

For this activity, the overview talks about trust and how it feels to trust as youth help a blindfolded friend navigate through a circle of toys. Materials needed are toys or objects tossed in a circle, which is enclosed by tape or string. Blindfolds are given to each participant.

Ask the children: “If all the lights went off in this room, how would you find your way around?” Listen to responses and continue with questions and discussion on trusting your friends, how they can help each other, can the person blindfolded actually trust the friend’s direction and comments.

After the activity, have youth share if it was easy or hard. Did they feel trusted? Continue discussion with youth. This activity was taken from “Good Ideas to Help Young People Develop Good Character, Volume 2.”

There are many good activities for all ages when teaching character education. These are just a few.

Watch for the next five pillars that will be shared in future news articles.

To learn about the positive impact children and families experience due to MSU Extension programs, read our 2016 impact report: “Preparing young children for success” and “Preparing the future generation for success.” Additional impact reports, highlighting even more ways Michigan 4-H and MSU Extension positively impacted individuals and communities in 2016, can be downloaded from the MSU Extension website.

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