How did George Washington’s leadership at Valley Forge, and his later insistence that he serve only two terms as president, reflect his virtuous character? What did Ida B. Wells’s fight against Jim Crow laws and lynching say about an individual’s moral duty in America? Why did Padre Miguel Hidalgo y Castillo decide to break the law to help the indigenous people in his Mexican village, and what did his role as a revolutionary demonstrate about his values? Such stories of historical leaders and reformers are central to the Core Knowledge History and Geography (CKHG) program, and they can serve as a rich resource for the study of character.

CKHG’s Grade K−6 world and American history curriculum—including twenty-four brand-new K−2 units—provides elementary teachers with innumerable examples of figures in history who displayed virtuous character, as well as some history makers whose actions proved harmful. These stories can be used to think about and discuss issues of character faced by people throughout history.

The Core Knowledge Foundation is pleased to call to your attention two resources that teachers may find useful in integrating Core Knowledge content with classroom discussions about important values.

The Core Knowledge Foundation Welcomes the Launch of The Character Formation Project

The Civic Character Formation Project (CCFP) draws on CKHG content to help students develop their own sense of character. The Character Formation Project is a nonprofit that strives to prepare students to lead fulfilling and virtuous lives. Like Core Knowledge, CCFP uses outside subject matter experts to review their material. Designed to align with CKHG, CCFP’s vividly written accounts effectively place the student at moments of moral decision making, allowing for reflection, discussion and the examination of virtue. CCFP programming focuses on seven virtues that have been exhibited throughout time by countless individuals who have worked to advance human freedom. The seven virtues are justice, respect, responsibility, integrity, self-sacrifice, diligence, and courage.

CCFP has created a series of lessons offered for free download on the Character Formation Project website. An accompanying student component, My Character Formation Journal is available for purchase on the CFP website.

Congratulations to Core Virtues on Twenty-Three Years

Twenty-three years ago, Mary Beth Klee designed Core Virtues, a nonsectarian approach to character education for students in Grades K−6. Klee founded Crossroads Academy, an independent day school in New Hampshire, with the twin goals of academic and moral excellence. To accomplish these goals, she oversaw the implementation of the Core Knowledge Sequence at her school, and then created the Core Virtues program. Teachers who follow the program read quality children’s literature “to provide inspirational or insightful examples of virtue in action.” Each month teachers highlight a key intellectual, moral, or civic virtue, such as respect, responsibility, diligence, honesty, generosity, or perseverance. They read quality children’s literature at a “Morning Gathering” to provide inspirational or insightful examples of virtue in action. The reading of these well-written and often beautifully illustrated stories helps children to fall in love with the good, and to cultivate a vocabulary of virtue.

Of particular interest to Core Knowledge Schools is a feature entitled Core Knowledge Connections that highlights the elements in the Core Knowledge Sequence that align to the Core Virtues program. Also don’t miss the September blog post by Mary Beth Klee, “Eyes on the Prize:  Knowledge and Virtue.”

6 comments on “Teaching Values and Character Education Using Core Knowledge”

  1. 1
    Pietro Meli on September 18, 2019

    Thank you for helping to shape the character of our learners! I work in Oxon Hill Middle School and we talk a lot to our students about the importance of character development in order to work with others and to create positive changes in our local community and also in the world. I was particularly interested in the connection between character development and academic achievement. The Carnegie Foundation also examined the importance of teachers having a say in setting standards for behaviors as an essential area for teacher involvement and define it as involvement that is essential to the health of the school (Ackerman and Mackenzie, 2007). I wonder if anyone could share what materials were replaced by the introduction of the Core Virtues Program and if there was any push back from parents. Thank you for any insight.

    Ackerman, R. & Mackenzie, S. (2007). Uncovering teacher leadership: Essays and voices from the field. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

    1. 2
      Des on September 22, 2019

      Pietro, you are correct. This movement can positively impact the world if we invest in this kind of character building. Our team at school decided to use this concept to build the moral of the students and encourage them that being positive is a good thing.

  2. 3
    Stephanie Lee on September 19, 2019

    Wow! This is my first time reading about Core Knowledge and the character formation project. This is a great way to delve into history and character virtues. I am interested in learning more and how I can implement this in my classroom. I have required curriculum to follow, but I am intrigued how this would work with my second graders. My students need to know how leaders and people of great significance used moral and virtues to lead their lives.

    1. 4
      Pietro Meli on September 22, 2019

      Hi Stephanie, I was also impressed by this program’s emphasis on values and ethics. I believe this program could be used in some type of extra-curricular or supplemental material. After all, academic and moral excellence in our learners, and in our teachers, benefits not just the school but the entire community surrounding the school.

  3. 5
    Des on September 22, 2019

    Core Knowledge and the Character-building project have been interests of mine for a few years now. I was trained in the Virtues Project by Dara Schain Feldman in the Virgin Islands several years ago. It was an awesome way to start the day. Students were engaged and encouraged to use a tactful word in their speaking. The students were taught to value themselves and others. I truly believe this is a great way to promote positivity in the classroom. Hopefully, this method will impact the world someday.

  4. 6
    C. Corbett on October 14, 2019

    When I taught in Atlanta Public Schools, Core Knowledge was being introduced. The district was experimenting with the idea of core knowledge tasks. Select schools were given tasks to help them decide on the district’s approach to the concept. Since then, the district has gone through a complete structural overhaul. It would be interesting to know where they are with Core Knowledge now.

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