Protecting the Environment (Grades K-5)

Character Education Objective:

  • Students will understand their role in a community and the impact they have as one individual.

Content Goal:

  •  Students will be able to understand their duty to protect the environment.

Language Goal:

  • Students will have a discussion to generate ideas and brainstorm possible solutions.


There is so much power in the actions of one person. This lesson is designed for students to understand the impact of being an engaged citizen of their community. Citizenship is more than voting and obeying laws. It involves individuals taking responsibility for their duty to protect the environment. This lesson gives students time to discuss solutions to problems they see in their communities around the environment. 


  1. Spend a week or two prior to the lesson collecting recyclable items. Encourage students to bring items from home. Food/drink containers should be washed thoroughly and dried. 
  2. Watch “How to Change the World (a work in progress) | Kid President: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4z7gDsSKUmU
  3. Ask students to discuss with a partner the following:
  4. Why do some people think it is impossible to change the world?
    • What do you think it takes to change the world?
    • Where are you a citizen? In the world, the country, the state, the community, the school, the family?
    • What does it mean to be a good citizen in those places?
    • What are some of the things that need to be changed in the places you are a citizen?
    • Brainstorm ideas that you, as an individual, could do to impact the environment?
  5. Bring students back together to discuss their responses. Ask students to expand on their ideas around the impact and power of an individual in change. Challenge them to see their role in things they feel they cannot control. 
  6. Discuss that one of the best ways to create change in within your own community is to start at home. Recycling and reusing is an easy task to do at home to impact all the places you are citizen (home, school, community, state, country, and world). Recycling and reusing reduces the waste we produce, the amount we contribute to the landfill and the energy we consume.
  7. Make a large Pillar shape on purple (preferably) butcher paper. Give students the recycled items and glue. Ask them to make a pillar collage out of recycled material. Hang up the Pillar in classroom as a reminder of the impact one citizen can have.

Family Connection:

  1. Encourage families to discuss what it means to be a citizen within their home. Use prompts such as:
    • How does a good/bad citizen in our home contribute to chores
    • How does a good/bad citizen in our home respond to rules?
    • How does a good/bad citizen in our home treat others?
    • What impact can one member of the family have on the whole family? Both positively and negatively. 
  2. Recycling is an easy and powerful way an individual can make a change in their community. As a family, pick a recycling activity to engage everyone in the commitment to improve their own citizenship: https://www.naturespath.com/en-us/blog/19-activities-kids-learn-recycling/

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Volunteering (Grades 6-12)

Character Education Objective:

  • Students will discuss how caring is demonstrated through volunteering. 

Content Objective:

  •  Students will volunteer for an organization that is close to their heart to demonstrate care for others.

Language Objective:

  • Students will research local organizations where they can volunteer 


Students can learn how to care for others by volunteering for organizations and getting more involved. Discussing ways to care for animals, the Earth, or people is a great way to share caring, but serving in those areas is a superior way to make connections to this pillar of character. Therefore, this lesson will push students to think and research organizations where they can volunteer and demonstrate what it means to care in action not just in words.


Independent (5 minutes)

  • If you could write a blank check to any non-profit or service organization what would it be and why?

Categorize who or what your selected organization cares for in service (2 min)

  • Animals 
  • Individuals with disabilities
  • Sick Children
  • Etc 

Utilizing the areas of interest find a group who is also interested in supporting these types of organizations. (13 min)

  • Create a poster as a team of the 5W and H ways to volunteer and demonstrate you care
  • What organizations are available in your area?
  • Where do you need to go to get signed up to volunteer?
  • When do can you volunteer?
  • Who do they need or accept to volunteer?
  • Why would you choose to volunteer?

Share out your Why (2 min)

  • Why should you volunteer at your selected organization?

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Ten Ways to Pay it Forward This Holiday Season

The holiday season is often filled with gift-giving, hot chocolate and twinkling lights. Those things are all a beautiful and wonderful part of the holiday, but this time of year is truly about selflessness, kindness and compassion. What we do for others brings us joy and cheer, it makes us feel good knowing that we can make someone else feel special. It only takes one act of kindness towards your friends, family or a stranger to show that you care and want to spread joy. So, remember that during this holiday season you have the power to pay it forward and brighten someone’s day. 

  1. Pay for another person’s meal in the drive-thru. This simple and unexpected act of kindness can brighten someone’s day and remind them that they are cared about. 
  2. Donate blood. Taking an hour out of your day to donate blood can make a huge difference in the lives of people who may be unable to be home with their families during the holidays. 
  3. Clean out your closet and donate. We all have those few items of clothing that sit in our closet waiting to be worn all year long. Clear out those unused clothing items and bring them to a local youth center or homeless shelter. Warm items are especially appreciated during the winter. 
  4. Compliment a stranger. Do you like someone’s sweater? Tell them! Do you like someone’s shoes? Tell Them! Do you appreciate someone? Tell them! 
  5. Invite your neighbors or someone you lost touch with out for coffee. Life is busy for everyone and we can lose touch with those who were once so close to us. Reach out to someone you’ve been growing distant from to catch up and reminisce.  
  6. Shovel snow or mow the lawn for someone. If you have some extra time, show your neighbors you appreciate them and help them out with some yard work. 
  7. Take someone’s dog for a walk. Get some exercise and puppy time for yourself by helping a friend by taking their dog for a walk around the block. 
  8. Give a generous tip to your waitress or waiter. Servers work super hard, especially during the busy holiday season. By leaving a generous tip you’re letting your server know you appreciate their hard work and you’ll boost their mood for the rest of their shift
  9. Leave a positive review of a local business or restaurant. Local businesses rely heavily on positive word of mouth to spread the news about their businesses. By giving a 5-star review on Yelp or Google, you can help out a small business. 
  10. Buy a reusable shopping bag for someone behind you in line. Help be more environmentally responsible and make someone’s day by gifting them a bag they can keep in their car to continuously reuse. 

The holidays are a great time to get started on paying it forward as we reflect on all of the great times of the past year. Often, paying it forward can set forth a chain reaction. If you do something nice for someone else, they might just pay that kindness forward to another person. If you do something nice for two people, and those two people do something nice for two new people, the chain reaction could be endless. You have the power to set a powerful chain in motion by starting with any one of the simple ways to pay it forward above. 

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K-5 Character Education Lesson Plan: Community Service

Character Education Objective: Help students understand the importance of intentionally seeking out opportunities for community service and how those acts will impact the community.

Core Alignment:


  • Essential Concept and/or Skill: Communicate and work appropriately with others to complete tasks.
  • Essential Concept and/or Skill: Learn leadership skills and demonstrate integrity, ethical behavior, and social responsibility.
  • Determine a procedure for how people can effectively work together to make decisions to improve their classrooms or communities.
  • Determine effective strategies for solving particular community problems


  • Essential Concept and/or Skill: Communicate and work productively with others emphasizing collaboration and cultural awareness to produce quality work.
  • Essential Concept and/or Skill: Practice leadership skills, and demonstrate integrity, ethical behavior, and social responsibility in all activities.


We all have a natural connection to our community, but we can strengthen that with acts of kindness to those around us. Often, those acts need to be intentional and we need to seek out the opportunity. When we do it has a ripple effect on our community and it will continue to spread as long as we all participate.

Ask students to watch the video below.

Life Vest Inside- Kindness Boomerang:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nwAYpLVyeFU

After the video, ask students what they saw in this video. What happened when each character went out of her way to help the next? Would that character have helped the next if she had not been helped before? Ask them what they think caused each person to help the next?

Can our class cause a chain reaction like this? How could we start?

Brainstorm ideas as a classroom about either a service project or intentional acts of kindness you could do this month. Write all possible ideas down and encourage all children to add any idea that comes to mind. In brainstorming, it is important to allow all ideas to make it to the list and then you can refine ideas in a later step. Once the brainstorm list is created, talk about any obstacles that may limit this project. There may be a budget, no money at all or time may be a consideration. Set any perimeters and allow the students to problem solve to either overcome the obstacle or decide to remove it from the list. Refine the list to possible projects or acts and allow the class to vote. Perform your service project or acts of kindness and share with The Ray Center on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/TheRayCenter/ or on Twitter @TheRayCenter.

Optional Activity

Literacy gives us so many characters who seek out opportunities and make intentional choices to positively impact community. Characters are great at reinforcing concepts and we have picked out a few that are quick and easy reads. These stories can supplement transition or wait activities. Choose a story below and discuss how each character made a choice and how that choice impacted her community.

  • Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña
  • Ordinary Mary’s Extraordinary Deed byEmily Pearson
  • What If Everybody Did That?byEllen Javernick
  • If Everybody Did byJo Ann Stover
  • Is There Really a Human Race? byJamie Lee Curtis
  • Fill A Bucket: A Guide to Daily Happiness for Young Children byCarol McCloud
  • A Sick Day for Amos McGee byPhilip C. Stead
  • Stone Soup byMarcia Brown

Ask some of the following questions:

  • What would you do if you were that character?
  • How do you think the other character felt?
  • How did that action impact the next one?
  • How does that help build the community?

 Parent Connection:

Share with families about your service project or acts of kindness. Ask families to think about creating a service project or acts of kindness plan together. It can be big or small, but every act matters and reinforces the concepts of the lesson plan you completed. Encourage them to visit the following website that is full of ideas including plans and instructions:


Ask families who participate to share family projects with The Ray Center on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/TheRayCenter/ or on Twitter @TheRayCenter.

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Make no mistake about it


From our guest contributor, Frank Sonnenberg

Mistakes have a negative image. So we hide them, play the blame game, or beat ourselves up when they occur. In fact, these actions compound our mistakes by creating stress and anxiety, damaging relationships, squandering time and money, and most importantly, often causing us to repeat the same mishap over and over again. The truth is, mistakes aren’t inherently bad –– what counts is how we view and react to them.

How Do You Respond to Mistakes?

Avoidance.Trying to avoid mistakes at any cost can be very costly.As Albert Einstein said, “A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.”

Repetition.When you run into a wall, don’t dust yourself off and run into it again. Learn.

Inattention.Learn from other people’s mistakes rather than reinventing the wheel –– and making every mistake yourself.

Suppression.Sweeping mistakes under a rug never makes them really disappear.

Procrastination.Left unattended, small mistakes grow into big ones.

Judgment.Mistakes don’t make you a failure, but beating yourself up makes you feel like one.

Dishonesty.It’s one thing to make a mistake and quite another to commit one intentionallyby being deceitful.

Denial.No one wins the blame game. Pointing fingers prohibits learning or progress from taking place. It’s time to face the music.

Trapped.Dwelling in the past won’t help you today.


View Mistakes as an Opportunity Rather Than a Weakness

People fear mistakes because they’re reprimanded and ridiculed for them. As a result, we become defensive when they occur.Imagine how we’d act if mistakes were a welcome way of life. As Ralph Nader said, “Your best teacher is your last mistake.”

Encourage risk-taking. If mistakes were welcomed, you’d encourage risk-taking rather than defensive behavior. Mistakes would mean that you’re setting “stretch goals” –– leaving your comfort zone and attempting something new.

Welcome feedback.If mistakes were welcomed, you’d feel supported by constructive feedbackrather than attacked by biting criticism. You’d feel exhilarated rather than stressed out.

Promote positive action.If mistakes were welcomed, you’d feel compelled to address the problem rather than afraid a mistake would be discovered. This would promote positive action rather than negativity.

Stimulate learning.If mistakes were welcomed, you’d feel comfortable sharing your mistakes rather than hiding from them. You’d know that sharing fosters learning. Why should other people have to learn from theirmistakes when they can learn from yours?

Encourage teamwork.If mistakes were welcomed, you’d shift from a destructive to a positive environment.Finger-pointing and back-stabbing would give way to civility and mentoring.

Trusting partnerships.In business, if mistakes were transparent, communication with vendors would flourish and artificial walls would be torn down. Vendors would be treated more as allies than as adversaries.


How Do You View Mistakes?

When mistakes are made, our actions shift from doing the right thing to covering our behinds; to pointing fingers rather than accepting personal responsibility; hiding errors rather than fixing them; allowing wasteful projects to linger rather than shutting them down; and letting small problems become big ones because they’re inadequately addressed. The result is that learning is brought to a complete standstill –– making it more than likely the same mistake will be repeated. It shouldn’t be that way.

The time has come to view every mistake as an opportunity rather than a weakness.This change in outlook will stimulate personal growth, strengthen relationships, and enhance efficiency and effectiveness. The truth is that there shouldn’t be shame in making a mistake. The disgrace should be in failing to admit, correct, and learn from it. The bottom line is that the difference between mediocrity and exponential personal growth is how you view your mistakes. Make no mistake about it!


This is adapted from BOOKSMART: Hundreds of real-world lessons for success and happiness by Frank Sonnenberg.


Frank SonnenbergFrank Sonnenberg is an award-winning author. He has written seven books and over 300 articles. Frank was recently named one of “America’s Top 100 Thought Leaders” and one of “America’s Most Influential Small Business Experts.” Frank has served on several boards and has consulted to some of the largest and most respected companies in the world.

Additionally, FrankSonnenbergOnlinewas named among the “Best 21st Century Leadership Blogs”; among the “Top 100 Socially-Shared Leadership Blogs”; and one of the “Best Inspirational Blogs On the Planet.” Frank’s newest book, Soul Food: Change Your Thinking, Change Your Life, was released November 2018 (© 2018 Frank Sonnenberg. All rights reserved.)


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It pays to delegate

From our guest contributor, Frank Sonnenberg.

Leave your comfort zone. If you don’t feel comfortable delegating, you’re not alone. Change is difficult. Think about it this way…if we didn’t try to walk, we’d all still be crawling.

Know what matters most. Set priorities and determine which trade-offs are right for you.

Build trust. Surround yourself with talented people who possess a high level of trust and integrity.

Manage the process. Focus on the process as much as on the end result. And make sure to consider strengths and weaknesses when assigning work.

Be explicit about goalsand expectations. Tell people your ultimate goal rather than micromanaging how they do it. Who knows…they may come up with a better way.

Set milestones. Delegating does not mean walking away from an activity until it’s complete. Establish key milestones and review progress along the way.

Delegate responsibility and authority. It’s not enough to delegate a task. Give the person the responsibility and authority to get it done.

Set the right tone. Create an environment in which dialog is open, questions are encouraged, and mistakes become part of a learning experience.

Give continual feedback. Remember, there’s a difference between criticism and constructive feedback.

Recognize and reward excellence. Give credit where credit is due. Compliment people in public; criticize them in private.


This is adapted from BOOKSMART: Hundreds of real-world lessons for success and happinessby Frank Sonnenberg released November 2016.


Frank is an award-winning author. He has written six books and over 300 articles. Frank was recently named one of “America’s Top 100 Thought Leaders” and one of America’s Most Influential Small Business Experts. Frank has served on several boards and has consulted to some of the largest and most respected companies in the world. Additionally,  FrankSonnenbergOnline was named among the “Best 21st Century Leadership Blogs,” among the “Top 100 Socially-Shared Leadership Blogs,” and one of the “Best Inspirational Blogs On the Planet.” Frank’s new book, BookSmart: Hundreds of real-world lessons for success and happiness was released November 2016. © 2018 Frank Sonnenberg. All rights reserved.




Teaching citizenship: leadership

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Own your life

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From our guest contributor, Frank Sonnenberg. 

Everyone is born with the potential for greatness. What happens next is up to you. You get to choose which path you take, how high to set the bar for yourself, and how hard you’re willing to work to clear it. You get to decide how to spend your time, who to spend it with, and what you’re willing to forgo when time runs short. Every choice that you make and every action that you take has consequences, but who better to decide what’s best for you –– than you. It’s your life to live. Own it!

Securing the ultimate prize takes strength and courage. You’re going to face challenges that seem insurmountable and suffer setbacks along the way, but faith, hard work, and determination will see you through. Don’t listen to naysayers or allow others to lead you astray; follow your heart and let your dreams lead the way. You owe it to yourself to be the best you can be. You’ll travel this road only once. Believe in yourself and make yourself proud. There are no dress rehearsals in life.

Words to Live By

Here are 14 guideposts for your journey through life.

  • Be your own person. Get real; be yourself. Consider the advice of others, but trust yourself in the end.
  • Make yourself proud. Do your best; nothing less. Set standards of excellence that make the most important person –– you — proud.
  • Keep good company. Surround yourself with positive people who genuinely care about your well-being and bring out the best in you.
  • Find your passion. Pursue your dreams with fervor, and put your heart into everything you do. Everyone was put on this earth for a purpose…what’s yours?
  • Make a difference. Be a positive force in people’s lives. It doesn’t require a gift from your wallet but rather, a caring heart.
  • Prioritize your activities. Focus on the things that matter most. Everything on your plate isn’t of equal importance.
  • Invest your time. Think of time as your most valuable currency, and invest it wisely.
  • Be accountable. Accept responsibility for your behavior. When things go well, accept your well-deserved rewards. When they don’t, admit fault, learn from your mistakes, and move on.
  • Face reality. Be the change that you want to be. If you look in the mirror and don’t like what you see, don’t blame the mirror.
  • Invest in yourself. Don’t stop educating yourself. Learn something new every day. You’ll be able to leverage that investment for the rest of your life.
  • Be grateful. Appreciate what you have, while you have it, or you’ll learn what it meant to you after you’ve lost it.
  • Make lots of memories. Take time to smell the roses. Possessions age and lose value over time; memories last forever.
  • Remain true to your values. Compromise on your position, but not your principles. Listen to your conscience. That’s why you have one.
  • Guard your reputation. Protect your reputation like it’s the most valuable asset you own. Because it is!

Live the Dream

Success and happiness don’t just happen by chance; you have to go out and earn them for yourself. No one says they’re simple or easy to attain; it takes courage, hard work, and dedication. The key is to set high standards, remain true to your values, listen to your conscience, and never stop trying. At the end of the day, it’s your life to live. Own it! You have to live with yourself for the rest of your life.

This is adapted from BOOKSMART: Hundreds of real-world lessons for success and happiness by Frank Sonnenberg released November 2016.

Frank SonnenbergFrank is an award-winning author. He has written six books and over 300 articles. Frank was recently named one of “America’s Top 100 Thought Leaders” and one of America’s Most Influential Small Business Experts. Frank has served on several boards and has consulted to some of the largest and most respected companies in the world. Additionally,  FrankSonnenbergOnline was named among the “Best 21st Century Leadership Blogs,” among the “Top 100 Socially-Shared Leadership Blogs,” and one of the “Best Inspirational Blogs On the Planet.” Frank’s new book, BookSmart: Hundreds of real-world lessons for success and happiness was released November 2016. © 2018 Frank Sonnenberg. All rights reserved.

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What will continue

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5 secrets to raise kind-hearted kids   

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From our guest contributor, Michele Borba

Research tells us empathy is a trait we can develop in our kids. Here are a few simple  secrets to help your child learn to feel for the views of others, develop a strong, caring mindset.

1. Point Out Other People’s Feelings

Point out the facial expressions, posture and mannerisms of people in different emotional states as well as their predicaments is beneficial: it helps your child tune into other people’s feelings. As occasions arise, explain your concern and what clues helped you make your feeling assessment: “Did you notice Sally’s face when you were playing today?  I was concerned because she seemed worried about something. Maybe you should talk to her to see if she’s okay.”

2.Switch Roles to Feel The Other Side

Michael was a special education student of mine who had difficulty understanding anyone else’s feelings but his own. Oneday he hurt another student’s feelings with his teasing, but I just couldn’t get him to understand how sad he’d made the other child. I spotted a wire hanger on the floor, quickly bent it into a large circle shape and improvised:

“Michael, stick your head through the hole and pretend you’re Stevie and feel just like Stevie feels. I’ll be Michael. ‘I started the role play: Stevie, your haircut makes you look dumb.’ How do you feel, Stevie?”

By making Michael switch places and pretend to be Stevie he finally understood Stevie’s hurt. I used a wire hanger as a prop for Michael to use in role playing the other child’s point of view.

  • You can help your young child act out the other person’s perspective using puppets, dolls, or even toy action figures. As kids get older you can just ask, “Switch places and take the other person’s side. How would you feel if you were in her place?

3. Imagine Someone’s Feelings

One way to help your child connect with the feelings of others is to have her imagine how the other person feels about a special situation. Suppose your child just wrote a get well card to her Grandma. Use the moment to help her recognize her grandmother’s reaction when she receives the card by pretending she’s the other person. “Imagine you’re Grandma right now. You walk to the mailbox, and when you open it you find this letter. How will you feel?”

You later can expand the imagination game to include people your child has not personally met: “Imagine you’re a new student  and you’re walking into a brand new school and don’t know anyone. How will you feel?”

  • Asking often, “How would you feel?” helps kids understand the feelings and needs of other people.

4. Be the Example You Want Your Kid To Become

Kids don’t learn to be caring, kind and compassionate just by us telling them about it. They learn it best through our own example. Every week or so, you might stop and ask yourself, “What deeds have I done this week that show my kids I value caring? How am I helping my child become kind-hearted?

  • Opportunities are endless: take a batch of cookies to the new neighbor, deliver old toys to the fire department that can be distributed to needy children, coach a sport to a group of kids, be a room parent in a classroom, bring a bowl of soup or a ready-made dinner to a sick friend, or make or purchase a baby blanket to bring to a family shelter. And always ask your child to accompany you on your missions of caring.

Helping a child recognize the impact of kindness is a fabulous way to convey to our kids that caring is important to us and can make our world a better place.

5. Use Moral Discipline

Martin Hoffman, a world-renown researcher from the University of Michigan, aimed one of his most influential studies on empathetic children. He wanted to determine the type of discipline their parents most frequently used with their children, and the finding was clear.

  • The most common discipline technique parents of highly considerate children use is reasoning with them about their uncaring behavior.

Their parents’ reasoning lessons helped sensitize their children to the feelings of others, and realize how their actions may affect others. It’s an important parenting point to keep in mind in those moments when we confront our own kids for any uncaring deed.

Michele BorbaDr. Michele Borba is an educational psychologist, parenting expert, TODAY show contributor and author of 22 books including The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries and UnSelfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World.

Check out: micheleborba.com or follow her on Twitter @micheleborba.

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