Activity time: 20 minutes
Materials for Activity
A sheet of poster board as a background (one per group)
Colored paper, especially in earth tones, tape, glue, scissors, markers, other craft supplies such as popsicle sticks, pipe cleaners, crepe paper, fabric
Paper and pencils
Newsprint, markers, and tape
Preparation for Activity
Decide how many small groups (about 4 people each) to form and how best to form them.
Post blank newsprint.
Description of Activity
Small groups create a model of a garden with the seeds of character.
Ask each group to make a list of the kinds of character traits they want to grow in the garden of their mind. Encourage them to choose two or three traits in each category: actions (e.g. "helps people" or "is a good listener"), emotions (e.g. "happy" or "peaceful"), adjectives, or describing words (e.g. "friendly" or "self-confident").
Ask each group to add three weeds to their garden. These are traits that they know they have growing in their mind garden but that they don’t necessarily want to nurture.
Using the craft supplies, ask each group to create a model of a garden of their traits. What do those characteristics look like, if we were to imagine them as real plants? Don’t forget to include the weeds. (Allow about 10 to 15 minutes for discussion and construction; if more time is available, or if your group is especially artistic, consider building more 3D models of the garden in a box top.)
Bring the groups back together and ask a representative from each group to describe their garden and the plants in it. While groups report, compile all the traits from all the groups on newsprint posted on the wall. Make note of traits that are mentioned multiple times.
Once each group has shared their work, discuss the process of creating their gardens, using these questions as a starting point:
- Was it easy or difficult to choose what seeds you wanted to plant? Did the group agree or disagree on what seeds and weeds to plant? What criteria did you use to make your choices? Was the process of choosing seeds or weeds different?
How much do we really get to choose the seeds we plant in our gardens? Are they planted for us, or do we do the planting?
What is most important in growing our seeds? Is it the “soil” they’re planted in (our lived conditions, privileges, etc.), or is it the work of you, the gardener (our actions, where and how we apply our efforts, etc.)
Return to the idea that our actions are more important than our thoughts. How we choose to act on our impulses is also part of our character and how we can nurture our wholesome traits. Impulses themselves are not our character (though you may mention that if youth are having regular, intrusive, impulsive thoughts which they struggle with, they should talk with someone about it - a minister, guidance counselor, or mental health professional).
As the group begins to consider that our actions can help to grow our character seeds, come back to the idea of the impact our actions have (Activity 2). Have they ever witnessed a situation when someone had good intentions, but their actions had a negative impact on someone else? Encourage the group to see “being mindful of the impact of our actions on others” as a character trait that we should all work to develop.