The City of Skiatook is working to become "A City of Character." The city is one of several communities nationwide promoting efforts to strengthen positive character qualities.
Shari Hull teaches an important subject at Central Elementary in Skiatook.
Her fifth graders are learning how to be better, stronger people through the character first curriculum. Schools have joined businesses, churches and civic groups in a yearlong effort to promote positive character qualities. "We've put banners up, we've worn buttons, we've made signs and we're getting marquees," said vice mayor Don Branscum. "Most of the churches as well as local businesses are using their signs to advertise and promote our trait of the month. We've had lots of support from our community."
Branscum says the moral traits being promoted are non-controversial ones that everyone can support. "We're trying to keep denomination and church doctrine out of the picture altogether," he said. "Even though we believe these are Biblical principles, we're not stressing it from that stand point as much as we are from a community need."
Skiatook schools teach character first from kindergarten through the 12th grade. Lessons integrate reading, art, games, and role playing into the study of traits such as obedience and compassion. This month, the subject is truthfulness. Character first stresses wise decision-making, self restraint, and other traits educators say children need reinforced now more than ever. "Kids no longer have this core value to go back to," said teacher Kelly Zodrow "We all make mistakes, but we have this foundation that we as older adults go back to. Children no longer have that foundation, at least some of them don't."
High school students say the emphasis on character is motivating everyone.
"This month it's compassion and some of the students have already started a fund for a student hospitalized this summer," said student Matt Maddox. "So I think it's a great reminder to see the good traits it takes to be of good character."