by Megan Pincus Kajitani
When my kids’ Montessori teacher asked me last fall to teach a character education curriculum to their K-3 class, I enthusiastically accepted. As a humane educator, I see character building as inherent in what we do — helping students develop their innate traits, such as compassion, courage, curiosity, creativity, reverence, and service — so, it seemed a great fit.
The teacher handed me the curriculum — a bag full of books and binders — and I eagerly dove in. When I read through it all, I found a lot of personal affirmations and self-esteem building activities (“I am strong and capable, I am creative and wise….”). But, there was not a broader application of how these traits can be used to make a positive difference in the world around them.
In short, I saw a major missed opportunity in this character education program to build children’s self-esteem by showing them how much power they have to help others (people, animals, and the planet), as well as themselves.
After spinning my wheels for a few days, trying to decide whether to teach the program as is or express my concerns to the teacher, I realized the situation presented me the perfect opportunity to be a solutionary myself. So, I offered the teacher a positive alternative solution: to be the pilot class for a combined character education/humane education program I’d write myself (loosely based on the message of the children’s book I wrote and another I’d been toying with, about kids as natural solutionaries). The teacher loved it, so off to work I went.
What I created became “Solutionary SuperKids” — a simple character/humane education program focusing on how kids already possess the SuperPowers they need to be solutionaries, in the form of their own Super Mind, Super Senses, Super Voice, Super Heart, and Super Body, all of which align with character traits like those I mention above (and also like the “3R’s and 3C’s” of humane education). I created an illustrated coloring book and a movement (kinesthetic) poem, and collected humane education activities and solutionary biography picture books (many of which can be found in IHE’s Resource Center), to create the seven-session program.
The pilot last spring went wonderfully. The kids would run up to me when I arrived to tell me how they had used their Solutionary SuperPowers that week. They were eager each week to see which solutionary we were reading about, and which coloring page they could color. And, the one week I saved the movement poem for later in the session, they were quick to let me know I’d “forgotten” it. In short, they were engaged and soaking in the seeds of humane/character education I was planting with them.
This school year, I’ve visited local schools with a one-session version of “Solutionary SuperKids” (along with my 9-year-old daughter, who is the main character of my children’s book). Even in just one 40-minute session, young students seem to embrace the idea of being Solutionary SuperKids. They hold their heads a bit higher when they realize all the SuperPowers they already possess inside of them to make a positive difference in their own life, as well as the lives of other living beings.
Isn’t that what character education is really about?
I’d love to know from fellow educators: Are you doing anything similar with character education for early elementary? Would you be interested in testing this K-3 program with your students when I create a Lesson Guide? Please comment below, and/or contact me through www.SolutionaryKids.org — I’d love to hear from you!