The Character Development Program utilizes the principles of positive youth development to foster the growth of core values that nurture ethical, social-emotional, life skill and academic development in youth and communities.
The LSU AgCenter's 4-H Youth Development Program began its efforts to teach character education in 1996. In 1997, with the leadership of Louisiana State Representative Beverly Bruce, a proposal was developed, and state funding was received. The plan that the LSU AgCenter implemented began by creating classrooms of character, then schools of character and finally communities of character. The following paragraph was taken from the Journal of Extension, April 1998:
After reviewing character education literature, Matthews and Riley (1995) determined that effective ethics education is grounded in community. "We ensure failure if we teach ethics without using a community context to illustrate, nurture and support ethical development. Without grounding ethics within the particular community and cultural context of the learner, ethics remain abstract, outside the scope of experiences of the learner and ultimately irrelevant" (p.17). Without an environment that is conducive to being a person of character, character education cannot be effective (Kohn, 1997).
The Character Development Program
The Character Development Program implemented through the LSU AgCenter’s 4-H Youth Development program is one of this state’s best investments in the future of Louisiana’s youth. The 4-H programs give youth in every parish a chance to participate in a wide range of “youth-friendly” activities and educational opportunities that help them transition successfully into adulthood.
Research has demonstrated that at every developmental level -- elementary, middle school and high school -- students who experienced quality character education programs outperformed comparison groups on measures of social behavior and academic learning. This finding, published in the fall 2003 issue of the Journal of Research in Character Education, resulted from a comprehensive literature review by Jack Bennings and colleagues on the relationship between academic performance and high-quality character education.
The current character development program conducted by the LSU AgCenter incorporates many dimensions, including 4-H programming inclusion in schools and community and character enrichment in schools. The program incorporates, but is not limited to, CHARACTER COUNTS! from the Josephson Institute. The CHARACTER COUNTS! program includes lessons which focus on the Six Pillars of Character -- Trustworthiness, Respect, Responsibility, Fairness, Caring and Citizenship. A seventh lesson, Decision Making, presents ways to make good decisions, using what was learned from the Six Pillar lessons. The six pillars serve as our core values as they are incorporated in the many focus areas such as: Service-Learning, Youth Violence, Risky Behavior, Etiquette, Diversity, and Ethics. In addition, a new component of the program is the State Schools of Character (SSOC) Award and Promising Practices Award which will be awarded annually to several deserving schools. Please visit the SSOC area on our site for additional information.
Character Development Program Impact
Extension supported character education programs can be found in schools, 4-H clubs, 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, LSU AgCenter 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.