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Character Education

Cultivating good character is an important part of a child's education at home, at school and in the community. Many UPF chapters offer lessons in classrooms or train teachers and administrators in character education or peace education.

Newburgh, USA - Mrs. Gale Alves of Binghamton, New York invited citizens of Newburgh and the surrounding areas to attend the seminar. Sally Sayre, representing the Character Education Initiative of UPF (Universal Peace Federation), conducted the training. Two participants, Matt Taft and Crescentia Hinkle, were in training to conduct character education classes in the Caribbean this summer.

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One hundred students from the University of Abuja, Nigeria, were invited to a seminar about character and service on March 12, 2008.

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Imagining life after school and preparing for it is the theme of Book 12, Preparing for Life in Society. The book covers such topics as emotions and self-control, self-image and self-esteem, human nature, change, searching for meaning, finding happiness, developing the virtues of commitment and loyalty, understanding group belonging, choosing a moral code by which to live, altruism, the relationship of the individual to the family and society, dealing with adversity, making a difference through service, and fashioning a life one can look back upon proudly are all topics covered in this important book. A serious and helpful stepping-stone into life beyond school, Preparing for Life in Society is filled with helpful illustrations, anecdotes, and reflection-provoking questions and exercises.

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 Book 11 Developing Leadership Skills


As future leaders of their own families and the current leaders of their own lives, students need to develop leadership skills. The book Developing Leadership Skills emphasizes taking responsibility by making good decisions, taking the lead in understanding others and developing relationship skills, being community-minded, being responsible in romantic and sexual relationships, coping with adversity and diversity, handling money, and being responsible for the environment. Examples of leaders, both famous and not-so-famous, as well as examples of leading schools of thought, help students relate to what leadership really is. Entertaining graphics and intriguing sidebars tell illustrative stories that underscore the meaning of the chapters. Questions for Reflection, Exercises, and Reflection Exercises at the end of each chapter help the student take ownership over the material.

Should You Have Sex Before Marriage?

Leadership involves making good decisions. One of the most important decisions many young people face today is whether to wait until marriage to engage in sex or to go ahead before marriage. This is a major decision in how to lead one’s life and should be considered  carefully.

Many media messages seem to tell us there is nothing unusual or wrong with having sex without marriage. People in movies and on TV do it all the time. However, there are rarely any consequences shown on the screen—like diseases or unwanted pregnancies. The reality of people’s lives who are having sex without marriage is a very different story.


Explain that the class is going to play a game based on a Victorian parlor game.

The students stand in a circle. One student is chosen to stand in the middle of the circle. He or she slowly turns all the way around once, while the students forming a circle try to make him or her laugh. The goal of the student in the middle is to turn all the way around once, meeting every other student’s eyes, without smiling or laughing. The students in the circle cannot touch the person in the middle, but they can make funny faces, funny sounds, say funny things, make jokes, tease, dance, or do anything to make the person laugh. This should be a lot of fun.

Anyone who can stand in the middle and turn all the way around once, meeting every other student’s eyes once time without breaking into a smile or laughing will get a piece of candy.

When the game is over, and students have settled down, explain that they may have a goal of saving sex until marriage. However, a lot of people will try to make them give in—just like in the game. It’s not easy to resist other people trying to tempt you into having a “fun” or “good” time, is it?

Explore UPF's comprehensive character education curriculum

  English: Discovering the Real Me
  Spanish: Descubriendo mi verdadero yo

Book 8 Going Through Changes 


The title says it all: firmly entrenched in adolescence, the thirteen to fourteen year old is definitely going through changes! As the characters in the stories of this book find out, the adolescent urge for independence is sometimes at odds with parental concerns about safety and sexuality, childhood friendships change and are subject to scrutiny from other peers; sibling rivalry may reach new heights on the athletic field, and belonging means something more than being part of a group of friends one’s own age. These thought-provoking stories show adolescents in the midst of their family and school lives, triumphs and struggles, as they go through the metamorphosis from childhood to adulthood.

“I Hate You, Mom and Dad!”

“C’mon, Dad,” cried out Emily to her father. “I’m thirteen years old now. I’m a teenager, not a baby.”

With that, she stomped up the stairs, making sure each step was heard throughout the house. At the top of the stairway, she shouted, “I hate you!” and slammed the door.

Emily’s father gazed at his wife and sighed. She shot back a sympathetic look. Their daughter’s dramatic exit from the dining room was brought on by her father’s refusal to allow her to date an older boy. In his mind, thirteen was too young to be dating at all, especially older boys. This boy, Carl, did not have a good reputation, either. There were rumors that he had gotten one girl pregnant.

Ask students how many of them thought Emily’s parents were wrong at the beginning of the story. Did any change their minds by the end of the story? How many still thought Emily’s parents were wrong by the end of the story?

You could make a chart similar to the one here and tally their votes.

Beginning of the Story

End of the Story

Emily’s parents were right

Emily’s parents were right

Emily’s parents were wrong

Emily’s parents were wrong

Explore UPF's comprehensive character education curriculum

  English: Discovering the Real Me
  Spanish: Descubriendo mi verdadero yo



 Book 7 Who Will I Be?


Dawning adolescence is a time when both the inner and outer world of the child are rapidly changing. Childhood friends are not as good a “fit” as they used to be, new interests are sparking new friendships, the desire to belong may mean succumbing to peer pressure to do things one doesn’t believe in, or else to stand up to the crowd with courage and integrity. Then there are those friendships with the opposite sex that suddenly have some new feelings in them. The question of purpose comes up: the old, irresponsible childish ways are no longer enough to cope with the pressures and expectations, yet knowing who and what one will be is a shore dimly seen at this age. Who Will I Be? deals with this challenging time of life through stories of typical situations children this age might be facing. Thought-provoking Questions for Reflection, Exercises, and Reflection Exercises help the students look at the serious questions of who they are and who they are going to be. 

Everything’s Changing!

Jenny ran out of the house and down the street as fast as she could. What’s wrong with me? She thought. Why was it that recently it seemed every conversation with her parents turned into a shouting match? Everything they did irritated her. Their questions, their advice, even seemingly harmless things like “Dinner’s ready!” could set her off.


Write on the board the word “Metamorphosis.” Ask if anyone can tell what it means. Explain that metamorphosis means a change in structure or form so complete that it is hard to recognize something or someone as the same being it was before the metamorphosis.

Pass around pictures of you as a baby, toddler, etc., saying that these photos show some of the metamorphoses you have been through in your lifetime. Ask students to note how very different—yet in many ways the same—you looked throughout the years as you metamorphosed from a baby to a toddler, from a toddler to a young child, from a young child to an adolescent, and finally from an adolescent to an adult. (Accept their comments with humor!) Ask them to go home tonight and look at baby and toddler and young child pictures of themselves and then to go and look in a mirror. Ask them to observe how they have metamorphosed from babyhood up until now.

Explore UPF's comprehensive character education curriculum

  English: Discovering the Real Me
  Spanish: Descubriendo mi verdadero yo

Book 6 A World of Choices


Brian discovers a “voice” within that rebukes him when he makes wrong choices; Tommy shows his friends that choosing to work hard pays off; Melodie chooses to tell her best friend that she won’t help her cheat; Jacinta, the new kid in school, chooses to tell on some boys she saw stealing; Robert chooses to keep losing his temper—and loses everyone’s respect as a result; Maria chooses to have her own way all the time, even at the cost of her best friends; and Naji chooses to overcome his poverty-stricken background and succeed in school and life. These young people and others are faced with trying situations in A World of Choices. Some of them make good choices, and some of them do not. Echoing throughout the book is the theme of responsibility—that a person’s destiny is truly in his or her own hands. Full of stories that reflect real situations children this age might be facing, A World of Choices also offers Questions for Reflection and Exercises at the end of each chapter to draw out and reinforce the lessons of the stories.

 The Cramers Get It Right

It’s a quiet Saturday afternoon in the community. At the Cramer house, two of the children, Bob and Al, are happily playing the latest video game. Earlier, they watched a rental movie, and later, they will go to the mall to hang out. The third Cramer child, Samantha, is packing a lunch and filling a canteen with nice, cold lemonade for herself. Soon, she’ll be off to a picnic in the park she has arranged with some of her school friends. She can hardly wait to go paddling on the park pond. She loves to dip her feet in the cool water. Such fun!

The children’s mother, Mrs. Cramer, has been, since the early hours, washing, drying, ironing, and folding the family’s laundry. Their father, Mr. Cramer, is in the front yard, mowing the long grass in the hot summer sun. He is hot, tired, and thirsty from having to work so hard on his day off.What is wrong with this picture?




Explore UPF's comprehensive character education curriculum

  English: Discovering the Real Me
  Spanish: Descubriendo mi verdadero yo

Book 5 Family and Friends

  The world of a ten-to-eleven-year-old is an exciting place. They have a new-found ability in perspective-taking, a strong personal sense of right and wrong, a capacity for self-doubt, a growing awareness of the importance of peers, new insights into family relationships, and burgeoning physical abilities. The realistic stories contained in Family and Friends enter that exciting world and help the young person cope with challenges like competition in sports, choosing between right and wrong in front of one’s friends, developing new skills, accepting defeat and victory, learning from mistakes, maintaining relationships in the family, and the difference between courage and foolhardiness. Each story contains a subtle lesson in character and is accompanied by thought-provoking Questions for Reflection and Exercises that bring the lesson to fruition in the young mind.

I Am Valuable

Even though I stand taller than all of the girls and boys in my class and some call me “lanky” or think that I must play basketball because I am so tall, I still love me. Even though I am skinny and not a straight A student, and I don’t wear fancy name brand clothes, I still love me. Even though I may not bring “special” lunches to school with syrupy, sweet contents because my parents care about my health, and other students say I eat rabbit food, I still love me. I think I’m worth a lot.

Ask students to take out a piece of paper and draw a large oval on it. Explain that this is to be how they see themselves—their inner mirror or self-image. (Or you could ask them to close their eyes and imagine a mirror image in it.)

Ask students to write or mentally write the following affirmations inside the outline of the mirror:

Ask students to write or mentally write the following affirmations inside the outline of the mirror:

I am good.
I believe in myself.
I know I have good qualities.
I am loved.
I am strong inside.

Explore UPF's comprehensive character education curriculum

  English: Discovering the Real Me
  Spanish: Descubriendo mi verdadero yo


“And they lived happily ever after” is not just the promise of fairy tales. It is the major character education lesson of the enduring international folktales retold in this book. The overarching theme of the book is that virtue leads to happiness. The designs of evil people, witches, and sorcerers are defeated in the end; kind people, good fairies, wise rulers, and noble princesses earn their “happily ever afters” through solid virtues of character. This is the first “read alone” book of the series, with a separate student textbook of stories and a teacher’s manual full of thought-provoking discussions, activities, and exercises that draw out of the lessons of these beautiful multicultural tales.

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Wise and Wonderful builds on the foundation of Book 1, Learning To Be Good, with more of Aesop’s famous fables. Written for a slightly more mature audience than Book 1, these stories are a bit more sophisticated in theme and are more firmly grounded in the world of relating to others in a sharing and caring way. Designed to be read aloud to the students, with easy-to-show illustrations, Wise and Wonderful contains the teacher’s manual right along with the story. Suggestions for hands-on activities and discussions help the teacher draw out the character education lessons of the stories.

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Developing My Character features direct teachings on such topics as choosing what kind of person to become, what constitutes happiness, masculinity and femininity, the importance of relating well to others, finding purpose, resisting peer pressure, the relationship between freedom and responsibility, the existence of the conscience, and the importance of honesty and self-control. Filled with entertaining stand-outs and sidebars that use famous and historical people as examples of the lessons being taught, the chapters are accompanied by striking graphics and challenging questions and exercises. Filled with wisdom and humor, this book is an invaluable guide to developing good character in the middle adolescent.

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