2007-2008

Military Honors

whitetableOur focus on Citizenship wouldn’t be complete without honoring the heroic efforts of our Military personnel. Whether you’re reading a patriotic story like America’s White Table by Margot Theis-Raven or writing a thank-you note to a soldier on active duty, pausing to remember and support these heroes is important not just around Veteran’s Day, but year round.

Ask your student(s) to research each branch of the Military and find out what its motto is. For example, which branch charges, “Be All That You Can Be,” and does it currently use that same slogan? You can also look for the musical selection that corresponds with each branch. Ask, for instance, which branch of the military uses the song Anchors Aweigh? Students can even take a virtual tour online of an Academy like West Point or the Naval Academy. Or study your ancestry and see if you have any Veterans in your family tree.

Another way to show your citizenship is to become pen pals with a soldier. Whether they’re on an American base or stationed in Iraq, our soldiers LOVE to receive mail from their littlest fans. There are many websites which make it easy to connect in this way; the two that come to mind are
http://www.amillionthanks.org and http://www.letssaythanks.com.

Where’s A Good Citizen?

I made up a little song some years back to the tune of “Where is Thumbkin?” that uses the same little thumb behind the back, little thumbs come out one by one, then little thumbs nod at one another before going back behind the back motions that we learned as children. Here are some possible verses for you to use with your kids:

Where’s a good citizen? Where’s a good citizen?
Here I am. Here I am.
I take care of nature and always recycle.
Citizenship. Citizenship.

Where’s a good citizen? Where’s a good citizen?
Here I am. Here I am.
I obey the rules and I respect authority.
Citizenship. Citizenship.

After you sing two verses together, challenge your little environmentalists to come up with their own third line to make a verse. What makes them a good citizen? What do they do that makes their world better because they’re in it? They’ll have fun with this one; I guarantee it.

A Castle on Viola Street

by DyAnne DiSalvo

castleSimple Synopsis: Andy’s family was rich. But not in material things. What they lacked in stuff, they made up in substance. They had an apartment, but Andy dreamed of having a house for his home. His dreams start to come true when he sees an advertisement about an organization which buys empty houses and turns them into homes. Through this community-building effort, Andy and his family learn about volunteering and eventually realize their dream of owning a “castle” of their own. What a fantastic tale of citizenship and community caring.

Use questions like the following to generate a discussion following the reading:
1. What did Andy’s mother means when she said “Our family is rich in more ways than we can count?”
2. Was Andy’s family rich? How?
3. What did Andy notice about the sign posted in the Soap and Go?
4. What does it mean to volunteer?
5. Why was it important for Andy and his family to get involved as volunteers?
6. Have you ever gotten to volunteer to help someone in need? When? Who?
7. How did Andy’s little sisters share in the responsibility of helping?
8. What can we learn about sharing from this book?
9. What did Andy’s “castle” cost his family?
10. What does Andy’s father means by “Big dreams are built, little by little?”

The Five-Finger Process

Sometimes, just making a promise out loud can be the push-into-action that we need. Try this easy five-finger promise with someone you trust and see what a difference a few small gestures can make.

Stand facing that someone. Put your right hand in the air as if making a pledge, and have them put up their left hand so your fingers and thumb mirror on another and are touching. You must each think of five easy things that you can do in the upcoming few weeks to put citizenship into action and then take turns promising them aloud. One for each finger and the thumb. For example: I will recycle all of my plastic and paper, I will pick up any litter that I see, I will go to vote, I will donate some food to a pantry, I will obey the speed limit. Small steps in the right direction, five for each of you, that add up to big things for our world. Once you’ve promised, all that’s left is to do it.

Try it with two or three friends, and see what happens. Have your students try it with their classmates or your children try it with their siblings. Imagine the world-changing potential – if everyone grabbed someone to make a five-finger promise this month!

Concerning Citizenship
Here are some situations for you to think about, talk about, write about, or act out. They’re fun because YOU get to decide what happens next!

1. Your neighbor’s dog keeps barking and you can tell that the pet is not being properly cared for. Would setting the dog free be the act of a good citizen? As a good citizen, do you have the responsibility to do something? What, if anything, could you do?

2. You see that your classmates are throwing paper in the trash rather than into the recycle bin. What would a good citizen do about that? What might happen if we stopped recycling? What could happen if we recycled more? Next time you’re in the car, look for places that take recycling. Have you noticed that HEB now has big recycle bins out in front? They will even take your PLASTIC – now that’s good citizenship!

3. Federal lawmakers often discuss changing the age that someone earns the right to vote. Do you know what the legal voting age is? Do you think it should be 18 or 21? Or maybe you think 16-year-olds or 13-year-olds ought to be able to vote. Defend your opinion.

4. Studying heroes is a great way to see citizenship in action. What exactly is a “hero”? What kinds of people are heroes? Are heroes extra intelligent? Extra strong? Extra brave? Larger than life? Is a hero a hero all of the time? Who are your heroes?

5. You and your mom are shopping and you have 14 items in your cart. You’re in a hurry because you’re going to be late for soccer practice. Is it okay to get into the checkout lane that’s reserved for customers with 10 items or less? What if it said 13 items or less? Why or why not?

6. Good citizens try to be part of a solution when they see a problem. Is there a problem that’s been bothering you? Look around your neighborhood. Are there some weeds that need your attention or some trash in the ditches? Could your neighbor use some help raking his leaves? There might be an elderly friend nearby who just needs a visit now and again. Maybe there’s something at school you could help fix. Choose a problem, do some research, find an adult to help you out, and carry out your solution. It’s that simple!

Going Green
Think a child or a family can’t make a difference? Not so. Little things — like using a colorful cloth bag for groceries or tossing potato peels and eggshells into the compost heap — can help the environment. And if your child develops good habits now, they’ll endure as he or she grows.

Here are 10 ways you can encourage your kids to go green on Earth Day and every day:

1. Reduce electricity, Explain to your children that lights, computers, televisions and furnaces use energy, and that energy is in short supply. Jessica Altman of Buffalo, NY, encourages her 3-year-old to always flip off the light when she leaves a room and shut off the TV when she’s no longer watching. Now the toddler even reminds others: “Turn off the light!” Appliances like DVD players use energy even when off, so cutting the power totally is the only way to conserve. Go shopping together to buy power bars and plug your electronics into them (watch little ones closely so there are no shocks).

2. Take small steps. There are dozens of small things your kids can do every day to save energy and keep the world cleaner and greener. Your kids can:

*Shut off the water when they brush their teeth

*Walk, ride a bike or take the bus instead of traveling by car

*Take faster showers or baths in just a small amount of water

*Help hang clothes on the line instead of putting them in the dryer

*Choose products that are not over packaged

3. Hello, Nature! What’s the best way to introduce children to nature? And how do we keep them hooked on the outdoors? As parents, we tend to fixate on getting from A to B on the trail or in the park and not on the texture of moss, the sounds of the wind and yes, interactions with worms. Here are a few suggestions:

4. Keep it simple and open-ended. Let the children lead the way, you might even learn from them. As one mom I know laughed, “They’re a lot closer to the ground. They’ll show you fungus, moss or insects that you’ve never seen.”

Encourage their natural imagination. Set out on any nature walk with preschoolers and the world becomes an exciting and magical place. Dried-up riverbeds become dinosaur grounds. Ordinary mud becomes quicksand, tree roots turn into crocodiles, and the common garden slug elicits curiosity. “Will it bite? Is it a boy or a girl? Can we touch its skin?” Ask questions where there are no right or wrong answers, like “How many shades of green can you see?”

5. Use all five senses. Kids are hands-on learners, so appeal to sights, sound, scent, touch and taste. Feel the texture of leaves or moss, smell the mud and listen with eyes closed to the sounds of wind. Lie on your back to observe clouds and make pictures from them, or taste the rain. For younger kids, tape together two empty toilet paper rolls and tie a string for first “binoculars.” They help to focus on just one bird in the bush or one fuzzy caterpillar. Older kids might like a scavenger hunt with items such as, “Catch a smell. What is it?”

Don’t forget nighttime. Walk with flashlights or lie down to look up at stars. “At night, you hear more and your senses are heightened,”says Sophika Kostyniuk, National Outings Manager for Sierra Club. A good resource for stargazing: The Kids Book of the Night Sky by Anne Love and Jan Drake (KidsCan Press).

6. Grab some inexpensive tools and equipment. Every natural “scientist” needs good equipment. Essential items: a magnifying glass (it should magnify10 times and be strong enough to withstand some falls), a journal to record finds in words or pictures (get the kids to decorate it with feathers and other found objects), a small lightweight butterfly net for examining frogs, bugs or butterflies and field guides for young readers, like the Peterson or Audubon books.

Your kitchen cupboards are a treasure trove for items like large spoons, sieves or colanders for pond studies; baby food jars, wax paper and rubber bands as collecting jars (punch air holes in the paper, observe and release); cardboard egg cartons to classify rocks; ice cube trays as temporary insect zoos.

7. Take a field trip. Take advantage of family programs at zoos, aquariums and botanical gardens. Let kids ask a zillion questions. “Kids can make a difference,” says Bill Street, Director of Zoo Education at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, who points to a group of kids who raised money on their own for African conservation. “Give them the knowledge and the tools and they are capable of accomplishing great things.”

8. Create a library. Start a collection of kid-friendly field guides on nature and nature activities, tapes and books like Smithsonian Bug Hunter (Dorling Kindersley) that uses water and a paper clip to explain why a pondskater doesn’t sink. Encourage sites like [ http://www.enature.com/ ]eNature.com or [ http://www.backyardjungle.com/ ]BackyardJungle.com. It’s OK to use technology to further love of nature says Eliza Russell, Director of Educational Programs at [ http://www.nwf.org/ ]Natural Wildlife Federation. Spend ten minutes in the backyard and then head to the computer for more. “Kids may see a new bird, and go online to learn what this bird eats or where it shelters,” she says.

The most favored book of all, however, will be one your kids make themselves. Russell suggests leaving a journal open by a window where kids can record what is taking place throughout the year or how things change daily. One or two sentences each day will do. Or let them create their own illustrated nature diary with words, images and found objects like nut tops or seeds. No matter how little, you can teach kids to be pro-active about initiating eco-friendly practices in their homes and communities.

9. Write a letter. Fifteen years ago, 9-year-old Melissa Poe of Nashville saw a TV show about pollution. Horrified by the problem, she wrote a letter to the president that suggested he “get on TV and put up big signs” to make people aware of the problem. She also founded [ http://www.kidsface.org/ ]Kids FACE, an environmental organization for young people. Your children can write letters to government leaders and corporations about pollution and other environmental issues, and you can give them a hand in looking up addresses and help them decide what they,Äôre going to write. Talk about how you live in a democracy and every voice counts, no matter how small.

10. Do a donation tour. A great way to get across the message of “reuse” and “recycle” is to take kids on a trip to your local thrift store, recycling center, or church. If your children have old clothing, toys, shoes, or other items in reusable condition, make a family trip down to the donation center so they can see how their trash is someone else’s treasure. Teach kids how items can be reused for different purposes–for example old towels, blankets, and comforters can often be donated to local animal shelters for bedding. These real-life examples will teach kids that many items they would normally throw away can actually have a second life. Don’t forget that we have recycling bins outside of Westwood for all of your cardboard and paper. Give your kids the job of flattening your cereal boxes and other cardboard containers. Then have them come with you to drop it off. Each year, we earn almost $1,000.00 from that community recycling effort.

The information in this article is adapted from www.Kaboose.com. Visit there for fun activity ideas for Earth Day and other special occasions.

Consider the following activities for follow-up and enrichment:
hanger1. A Helping Hands Bulletin Board
Andy’s family lent a helping hand, showing responsibility, caring, and citizenship. Give each child two sheets of paper. Have students trace their right hand on one sheet and their left hand on the other. If they are having difficulty with using the hand that they’re not accustomed to using, allow them to get a partner to help trace.

Ask them to think of a way in which they have lent a helping hand and a way in which they can lend a helping hand to someone in the future. Have them draw a picture on the drawing of each hand showing the ways they’ve lent and will lend a helping hand. Display these on a bulletin board entitled A Helping Hand as a visual representation of caring citizenship.

2. Alphabet Scramble
You will need: 5X7 index cards or 1/2 sheets of card stock, Markers

Andy’s family worked together as a team to help build houses for families in need. This activity will allow the children to work together as a team to spell character words.

Preparation: Make a set of alphabet cards which you’ll use in this activity to spell out the Six Pillars of Character words. Write one large letter per card. For one set, refer to the following chart – for example, you will need one A card, one B card, one C card, two E cards, etc.:

A – 1 / B – 1 / C – 1

E – 2 / F – 1 / G – 1

H – 1 / I – 3 / L – 1

N – 1 / O – 1 / P – 1

R – 2 / S – 3 / T – 3

U – 1 / W – 1 / Y – 1

Z – 1

Distribute the cards randomly among the students, making sure that each student has at least one letter. Read each scenario aloud and let the students which Pillar would help them make a better choice. If there are two Pillars at work, allow students to choose which one stands out as stronger – or let them choose both! Then have the students spell out the Pillar at the front of the class. (In the first one, for example, the students would spell out Trustworthiness because it is an issue of honesty and trust.)

*The cashier at McDonald’s gives you too much change and you keep it.
*Your new neighbor doesn’t know about the neighborhood recycling program. You decide not to tell him because it’s none of your business if he recycles.
*The teacher tells you to play a new game today but doesn’t give you the rules.
*Nobody is talking to the new boy because he talks with an accent.
*Your grandmother gives you a great birthday present but you’re too busy to write a thank-you note.
*Your mom asks you to set the table but then a friend calls and you run off to play.

To extend this activity: Have the students make up scenarios of their own. To enrich, you can easily add other character traits from within the Pillars like honesty, tolerance, integrity, compassion, service, duty, reliability, etc. by making additional letter cards.

A variation would be to have two sets of the letter cards and make it a challenge between two teams. They would decide as a team which Pillar would better the behavior, then race to spell the word out in front of the class. Give character coupons out to the winners and allow them to exchange it for leadeship opportunities like an extra day as line leader or for a job like cleaning the dry-erase board at the end of the day. You might even let them use the coupon as a free homework pass.

3. Do Not Disturb
You will need: A flexi-foam door hanger for each student, construction paper or card stock, permanent markers, scissors, tacky glue

Andy had already picked out the window to his room. He’ll probably have his own door – complete with a door knob. A popular door-hanger phrase is “Do Not Disturb.” This activity will allow students to maintain their right to privacy while advertising their ‘TRRFCC’ character on the flip side.

Each student needs a door hanger. On one side, allow them to write Do Not Disturb and decorate it as they like. On the flip side, they will make a 6-pedal flower to represent the Six Pillars of Character. They can cut six pedals from construction paper, card stock, or flexi-foam. (If the colors are available, encourage them to use the CC! color scheme of blue for Trustworthiness, yellow for Respect, green for Responsibility, orange for Fairness, red for Caring, and purple for Citizenship.) Using the Six Pillars of Character, have students label the pedals with permanent marker. Then have them glue the flower to the door hanger. Using either a marker or colored paper, students will make a stem and two leaves. On one leaf, have students write CHARACTER and on the other have them write COUNTS! or just have them write CHARACTER COUNTS! off to the side. They now have a visual reminder that might just plant seeds of greatness!