Can science possibly integrate with character development? This interactive water-displacement lesson (adapted from an idea in the book Activities That Teach by Tom Jackson) about honesty will visually show students the negative ripple effect that a lie can have. It requires a bucket or bowl of water, a quarter, and a roll of pennies. Let students circle around your bucket of water. Tell the students that the quarter represents a LIE and ask for an example of a lie students their age might tell. Drop the quarter into the water and ask students to make observations about what happened: it sank, it's heavy, it splashed me, it made ripples, it might rust down there. Compare what happened to the quarter with what happens when someone lies. Discuss how sometimes people try to cover up their lies. Make a T chart with the advantages and disadvantages of telling a lie to cover up another lie. Discuss the lists before the second part of your lesson.
Tell students that the pennies represent lies that people will sometimes tell to try to cover up their original lie. From above the water level, without touching the water, students can take turns dropping the pennies into the water to try to cover the quarter. Stress how difficult it is to completely cover up that lie. Ask for a prediction about how many more pennies (lies) it might require just to cover up the first lie. If a penny partially covers the quarter, say, "but you can still see the lie." Once every student has had a turn and you can still see the lie, ask students if it's even possible to completely cover up a lie. This object lesson ought to generate some interesting dialogue about honesty. What does it cost to try to cover up a lie? Wouldn't it be easier to just tell the truth? If you want your students to take home something tangible to remember the lesson by, why not give them each a penny, which features the profile of Honest Abe himself! Talk about the reputation that Abraham Lincoln made for himself.
To enrich the lesson, challenge students to write a paragraph comparing honesty and trustworthiness. Can you have one without the other? How many times does a person have to lie before you consider them a liar? Is it ever okay to lie? When? If someone has lied to you, how might he or she earn your trust back?