Good Character Today: Good Citizens Tomorrow

Ms. Cheryl recognizes an honest student.

How often did you hear, “Honesty is the best policy” when you were growing up? Students at The Learning Center! Charter School are learning about honesty and other traits that define good character. The idea is to teach good character today to build good citizens of tomorrow– and live it at the same time. The school-wide Character Education program, directed by teacher Cheryl Catuto, focuses on one character trait each month. Catuto, who is also Research and Curriculum Coordinator for the school, created grade specific lessons and activities for all the teachers to use in the classrooms. “At the end of the month,” said Catuto, “we give out a special VIP award for the particular trait.” Each month, a different character topic is emphasized: responsibility, respect, citizenship, honesty, cooperation, caring, fairness, forgiveness and integrity. It is reinforced by each teacher throughout the month, as well as in electives, lunch and PE. “That is the beauty of the whole school focusing on the same trait,” said Catuto, “all the staff can encourage good character.”

Teachers help the students understand the character trait and then revisit them throughout the month. The teachers also refer back to the traits that have been previously covered. They may remind them to be responsible to turn in their work or respect each other. For example, the unit on “honesty” mentioned telling the truth even when it’s difficult. “One student found a credit card on campus that belonged to a visitor of the school, said Catuto, “he turned it in to the office.”  That student was awarded VIP Citizenship for Honesty.

In the upper grades, Character Education is introduced in homeroom or in “Middle REAL,” a middle school entrepreneurship program where teachers take a more in depth look. In Middle REAL, students focused on Citizenship and how students are part of our community, making our home, school and neighborhood a better place.

Fourth grade recently learned first hand about cooperation and their work is displayed on the bulletin board in their class.

Each month, a student is elected “VIP” for Citizenship, which is announced at lunch by director of the school, Mary Jo Dyre.  She emphasizes during her announcements how these students show great character. “We are a Community of Learners,” said Dyre. “Part of being a good citizen within that community are the social and character lessons that are emphasized as much as academics.”

The VIP awards are then sent home for the parents to see. The award winners are also in the office on the bulletin board.

Lego Mindstorms

At least once a school year Ms. Christy offers the Lego Mindstorms elective for students in fifth through eighth grades.  This year was no exception.  I was lucky enough to be around much of the construction of these Lego machines and saw them in action.  Grasping things with pincher claws, moving both forward and backward and even launching balls into the air, the things these students made with Legos was impressive.

2nd grade has Polar Express Day

Right before Christmas break, Ms. Ashley’s second grade class celebrated Polar Express Day.  Their whole day revolved around the book  Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg.  In the morning they read and discussed the events in the book.  In the afternoon the second graders boarded the “Polar Express” getting their tickets punched and receiving their special necklace with a bell and their name. The students watched the movie and were paying attention to how the movie and book were similar and how they were different.   Looks to me like they had a wonderful day!!

Social Studies in 3rd Grade

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For the month of December, Ms. Stephanie, Ms. Nancy and the third grade class have been studying how different cultures celebrate the season.   First, the class lit a Menorah for Hanukkah.

Since one student lived in Japan for three years and shared her kimono and other trinkets with the class, it was a perfect opportunity to learn about Japan.

These kiddos also traveled to Italy to learn about La Befana.   To celebrate the children made their own pizzas,  cooked them in toaster ovens, and ate them for snack.

I surely don’t remember social studies being so much fun when I was in third grade.

5th Grade & Michelangelo

In Guided Reading the fifth grade class is reading From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg.  Set largely in part at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, the story is both a mystery and a celebration of art and beauty.  Mrs. Christy thought it only fitting as part of their study to have the students experience painting in the style of Michelangelo and his work on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.   They painted their own “ceilings” on the underside of their desks!

Hey, if you know a fifth grader ask them if their arms got tired.

Creatively learning geography

How can you get a seventh or eighth grade student interested in geography?

How about mix it with something they already like?

That is exactly what Ms. Shelley and Ms. Breanne decided to do with their Creative Learning Through Geographic Exploration class.

About a week before school started back in August, each teacher was figuring out their Friday schedule.  For several years Ms. Shelley had wanted to have a bigger chunk of time for P.E. on Fridays and combine some of the grade levels in order to do cooperative learning and team building activities.  At the same time, Ms. Breanne was dreading teaching the same geography class that she had in the past because she just couldn’t get the kids to see the point of learning geography.

The two teachers put their heads together and proposed a plan that would expose the students to geography through hands-on, team building activities.

Ta-dah!  Archery and geography!

And more importantly, 100% participation.