Teaching character education one pillar at a time – Part 6: Citizenship

Citizenship is the sixth and final character that makes up the six pillars of character is citizenship. As a citizen, we have a lot to be thankful for.

Michigan State University 4-H Youth Programs offers youth ages 5 – 19 years old a chance to learn new skills, make decisions and healthy choices and to 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.

In 1992, Michael Josephson brought together a group of educators to create the Six Pillars of Character—core ethical values for youth to learn and adapt. The six pillars are trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship. In this sixth and final article on CHARACTER COUNTS!, we will be discussing citizenship and how it can impact youth and society.

When mentioning citizenship, we think about how we can make our school and community better. Staying informed and voting is one way.  Protecting our environment, being a good neighbor and obeying the laws and rules all make us better citizens.

The color aligned with citizenship is purple. When talking about being a good citizen, try including the color purple so youth can be consistent with the color and the character. Offer grapes or plums for snacks.

Ideas to use with younger children when teaching how to be a good citizen is to talk about how a community works together to help each other.

4-H meetings often start with the 4-H pledge: “I pledge my head to clearer thinking, my heart to greater loyalty, my hands to larger service, my health to better living, for my club, my community, my country and my world.” The pledge relates to being a better citizen.

Other ideas to have youth think about citizenship is to discuss community and the different roles that can be found in a community. Discuss how the different roles help each other, such as a police officer, mail carrier, dentist, teacher and others. Being a responsible member of the community means being a good citizen.

Older youth can start talking about volunteer services, locally and worldwide. They could write a letter to the newspaper on an issue they care about, or think globally and what that means, such as the rainforests or other global issues.

Teaching youth about character education using the CHARACTER COUNTS! curriculum will give youth a solid basis to becoming a successful adult.

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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