Extension supported character education programs can be found in schools, afterschool programs and out-of-school youth groups. Each program’s appearance may be very different depending on the needs of the group. No matter the context, University of Illinois Extension Educators are committed to making an impact by using research-based methods and content, experiential learning techniques and a focus on the development of life skills. Below are few examples of impact made by this programming.
Teachers and childcare providers continually strive to develop positive character traits, such as respect and responsibility, in the children they supervise.
Today, more than 1200 Terrific Teachable Moments (TTM) booklets developed by UI Extension Educators are in the hands of teachers and childcare providers, impacting an estimated 25,000 children throughout Illinois.
Of those who received TTM training, 146 returned impact evaluation surveys and reported they had carried out 954 hours of TTM activities with 4620 children.
Sixty percent said TTM helped them address negative behaviors quickly and 73% said TTM helped them reinforce positive behaviors. Seventy-two percent saw positive changes and attributed “most” or “some” of those changes to the Terrific Teachable.
Youth kicked off the Character Counts! program chanting “We are TeRRiFiCC!” This year-long program included 1,015 K-8 students of four Peoria schools that used the Six Pillars of Character™ (Trustworthiness, Respect, Responsibility, Fairness, Caring, Citizenship) as a teaching tool.
Students learned the meaning of these traits and how they applied to school life by participating in speeches, essay contest, service-projects and school-wide celebrations of working toward being people of character.
The end of the school evaluation included the 605 5-8th graders and showed positive behavior changes. All participants showed gains in the 18 life-skill indicators. The greatest gains were found in the student’s willingness to care for the well-being of others and volunteer their time.
University of Illinois Extension introduced and provided staff training and evaluation for this program. Teachers reported that, “The programs addressed urgent needs in the community.” Students’ comments included, “learned to be a good person; resist drug use; help others/community; help out around my house; be respectful to my parents; it changed my attitude.”
University of Illinois Extension’s cutting edge “Teen R.I.S.K.” simulation results in smarter decisions that lead to healthier teen sexuality, according to cooperating teachers. After participating in this program for the last four years, one high school teacher remarked that it was the first time in her six years at that school that there had been NO reported pregnancies. She credited “Teen R.I.S.K.” with influencing this outcome. The teacher indicated, “That’s why I have you come back every year.” Over 1500 middle and high school students in west central Illinois have participated in Extension’s Teen R.I.S.K. (Real Issues of the Sexual Kind) simulation. Ninety-nine percent of the students reported increased knowledge about the risks of sex, condom use, and multiple partners, and 79% planned to avoid risky behavior due to the program.
Comments from students include:
The spring of 2007, six-two 5th and 6th graders and fifteen high school students, from five southern Illinois counties participated in the Step Up…Be a TRRFCC Teen retreat. The goal was to increase awareness of the Six Pillarssm. Character Education transcends and has an impact on many areas. The greater number of segments of a community that are involved with character development, the greater the impact on the youth and the community as a whole. This pre-teen retreat was an effort to teach and model core values known as the "Six Pillars of Character": Trustworthiness, Respect, Responsibility, Fairness, Caring and Citizenship. All students practiced skills needed to carry out each of the character traits. After the retreat, 95% of the participants reported they try to be more trustworthy, respectful, responsible, fair, caring and a better citizen. Some also indicted they would help others and just try to be a better person.
CHARACTER COUNTS!™ and the Six Pillars of Character are service marks of the CHARACTER COUNTS!™ Coalition, a project of the Josephson Institute of Ethics. www.charactercounts.org
Wanless Elementary School in Springfield, Illinois decided to test the Character Counts!™ philosophy after the September 11th tragedy in New York.
More than 200 students and their families donated $800 to the New York City fire department. Students inquired about how they could be of assistance to the families of the lost firefighters. Each of the qualities with the Character Counts!™ philosophy (trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship) were used by students to describe the purpose of this fundraiser throughout a one week period.
During an all-school assembly, Wanless presented our fire chief with letters of support, a cloth quilt, and a check to be sent to the New York City fire department. This project was developed and coordinated by the Wanless Character Counts!™ Committee and the Sangamon/Menard Unit of University of Illinois Extension.