Activities for Human Rights Day 2016

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Each year on December 10, people all around the world celebrate Human Rights Day.  

The date was chosen to honor the United Nations General Assembly‘s adoption on 10 December 1948 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the first global statement of international human rights principles.

This year’s Human Rights Day theme is Stand up for someone’s rights today!  With the #StandUp4HumanRights campaign, the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) is encouraging everyone, wherever they are in the world, to take action to address human rights abuses and intolerance. According to the OHCHR website:

Wherever we are, we can make a real difference. In the street, in school, at work, in public transport; in the voting booth, on social media, at home and on the sports field.

Wherever there is discrimination, we can step forward to help safeguard someone’s right to live free from fear and abuse. We can raise our voices for decent values. We can join others to publicly lobby for better leadership, better laws and greater respect for human dignity.

The time for this is now. “We the peoples” can take a stand for rights. Let us know what you’re doing, and we will gather your stories, and amplify your voice. Local actions can add up to a global movement. And together, we can take a stand for more humanity.

It starts with each of us.

Below are some ideas for simple yet meaningful ways that families can celebrate Human Rights Day by learning about the rights and responsibilities that we all share as human beings.For more ideas, check out my past Human Rights Day posts:

10 Things to Do With Your Kids on Human Rights Day (2011)

10 More Things to Do With Your Kids on Human Rights Day (2012)

Human Rights Activities To Do With Your Kids (2013)

Human Rights Activities For You & Your Kids (2014)

Activities for Human Rights Day 2016

1.Take the pledge to #StandUp4HumanRights!  Share your photo with the hashtag on Twitter, Instagram or YouTube and you can be on the campaigns Wall of Human Rights Champions.  You can also read about ways to Take Action  by supporting human rights in everyday life and calling on leaders to uphold human rights.

2. Learn more about the history of Human Rights Day by watching this short film about Human Rights Day 2016, detailing the United Nations’ relationship with Human Rights efforts and calling people to action.

3. Foster children’s empathy and compassion through reading. A Mighty Girl has a wonderful list of empathy-building books for kids of all ages in the”Kindness & Compassion” section of their website at http://amgrl.co/1JIHLCr  For example, two books that give children a visual way to think about kindness and compassion are “Have You Filled a Bucket Today: A Guide to Daily Happiness for Kids” for ages 4 to 8 (http://www.amightygirl.com/have-you-filled-a-bucket-today) and its sequel “Growing Up With A Bucket Full Of Happiness” for ages 9 to 12 (http://www.amightygirl.com/growing-up-with-a-bucket-full-of…)

4. Learn more about the experience of refugees.    TED-Ed has great 5 minute overview What Does It Mean to Be a Refugee that is appropriate for teens and adults, as well as additional educational materials.  The UN High Commissioner for Refugees also shares some of the personal stories of refugees. They make for inspiring reading!  Check out the story of a teacher who had to flee Syria and is now empowering refugee children in Malaysia.

5. Play games to learn about human rights. There are several sources for online games that teach about human rights: Games For Change has numerous online games, including one about the Syrian refugees.   E-games: Human Rights  and ConnectToLearn also have links to online games about human rights and intercultural learning.

I hope you and your families have a great Human Rights Day 2015!  If you have other ideas for human rights activities, please share them with us!

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Activities for Human Rights Day 2015

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This post was originally published on World Moms Blog. 

Each year on December 10, people all around the world celebrate Human Rights Day.  

The date was chosen to honor the United Nations General Assembly‘s adoption on 10 December 1948 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the first global statement of international human rights principles.

This year’s Human Rights Day is devoted to the launch of a year-long campaign for the 50th anniversary of the two International Covenants on Human Rights: the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which were adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 16 December 1966.

The “Our Rights. Our Freedoms. Always.” 50th anniversary campaign will highlight the theme of rights and freedoms — freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear — which underpin the International Bill of Human Rights are as relevant today as they were when the Covenants were adopted 50 years ago.

Below are some ideas for simple yet meaningful ways that families can celebrate Human Rights Day by learning about the rights and responsibilities that we all share as human beings.

For more ideas, check out my past Human Rights Day posts:

10 Things to Do With Your Kids on Human Rights Day (2011)

10 More Things to Do With Your Kids on Human Rights Day (2012)

Human Rights Activities To Do With Your Kids (2013)

Human Rights Activities For You & Your Kids (2014).

The UDHR in a word cloud. From Article 26 website.
The UDHR in a word cloud. From Article 26 website.

1. Learn about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  Download an illustrated version of the UDHR on the UN website here. You can also find a simplified version of the UDHR here.

2. Join the UNICEF Kid Power Team and work together to help end global malnutrition.Globally, one in four children is malnourished, about 159 million children worldwide. 50 million children suffer from acute malnutrition resulting in about one million children dying each year. And 16 million children suffer from the most life-threatening form of malnutrition, severe acute malnutrition (SAM), which can require specialized feeding care such as treatment with Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF) packets.


Families can join the UNICEF Kid Power Team by purchasing a UNICEF Kid Power Band—available at Target—and downloading the free companion UNICEF Kid Power App. Kids go on missions to learn about new cultures and earn points by getting active. Points unlock funding from partners, parents and fans, and funds are used by UNICEF to deliver lifesaving packets of therapeutic food to real, severely malnourished children around the world. In the pilot project earlier this year, more than 11,300 kids in Boston, Dallas and New York joined the UNICEF Kid Power Team and took enough steps to walk around the world more than 23 times. These kids earned enough Kid Power Points to unlock 188,850 therapeutic food packets, enough to save the lives of 1,259 children. 

3. Stand up for the rights of girls everywhere. Girl UP, the United Nations Foundation’s adolescent girl campaign, engages girls to take action. Girl UP’s current advocacy priority is improving access to quality education for girls worldwide, especially those in vulnerable settings. Worldwide, 140 million children are not in school – more than half are girls. Learn more about the impact of education of girls on society here.  Learn about ways you can advocate (no matter your age) here.

4. Sing your own song! Amandla! is a song that was a sung by Black South Africans during apartheid to give them strength. Amandla is a Zulu and Xhosa word meaning “power”. It was also the name of a documentary about the role of music in apartheid South Africa that won multiple awards at Sundance in 2003.  The chorus is:

We will fight for the right to be free
We will build our own society
And we will sing, we will sing
We will sing our own song

The band UB40, which strongly advocated against apartheid in the 1980s, did a popular cover of the song Amandla!


Amnesty International created a full lesson plan around the song.  Check out the full lesson, which encourages kids to sing along with the song.  Take out specific words and have your kids fill in the blanks.  Kids have such a great sense of justice that their words may surprise you! Then have your kids draw the images that the song evokes and present their art projects to others.

(Fun fact: Amandla Stenberg, who played Rue in The Hunger Games, was named for the word and its meaning.) 

5. Play Rights of the Child Pictionary. Based on the game Pictionary, each child sketches his or her interpretation of one article of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. When all are done, you can take turns examining the sketch and guessing the article it represents. For this and other ideas for teaching children’s rights through art, click here.

6. Play Human Rights Musical Chairs.  This lesson, developed by The Advocates for Human Rights, is a game similar to musical chairs, but with a writing twist. Select magazine and newspaper images that you feel effectively demonstrate a particular article of one of the 30 articles of the UDHR. For example, if the picture shows a scene where a group of children, boys and girls, are happy and walking with backpacks on their way to school, you could discuss Article 26 the “Right to Education” and Article 2 “Freedom from Discrimination” as both girls and boys are attending school.

Tape one image onto each chair along with one sheet of paper. Select music to indicate the starting and stopping of the writing. Tell the kids that they can write about whatever the image makes them think of. When the music starts, have the kids write the beginning of the story based on the image.  After a few minutes, stop the music and have them move to the next image. Start the music and have them write the middle of the story based on that image.  Encourage them to follow the storyline already in progress but allow them to get creative. Stop the music and have them move to the third image and write the ending. For more ideas, check out The Advocates for Human Rights’ resources for educators.

7. Learn more about famous and not-so-famous human rights heroes. There are many great biographies of famous activists (I Am Malala is one you may enjoy) but there are also many other inspiring peace and social justice activists to learn about.

Better World Heroes is an informational website which includes the biographies of 1000 heroes who have fought to build a better world.

The Giraffe Heroes project tells the stories of “Giraffe Heroes” – people who stick their necks out for the common good.

For more resources, download The Advocates for Human Rights’ Rights Sites newsletter: Human Rights Heroes edition.

8. Read Dr. Seuss’ The Sneetches as part of an anti-racism, anti-bullying activity. Teaching Tolerance has developed a great simulation activity.  The simulation exercise can help children understand the emotional impact of unfair practices. The follow-up activity on discrimination helps ensure that students understand that the goal is to change those practices, not the characteristics that make us different from one another. Check out all of Teaching Tolerance’s resources here.

9. Take a test together.  The Representation Project has developed two quizzes to examine how mainstream media shapes our beliefs and practices about women and girls, as well as what it means to be a man.  For families with preteens and teens who are interested starting a conversation about this issue, the Representation Project’s family resources can be found here.

#TheRepTest is a media literacy tool, sparking conversation about overall representation in film, television, and video games and encouraging more diversity in the entertainment industry.

The #BeyondTheMask quiz lets you grade male characters as role models.

10. Have a conversation with your family about what it means to be “free and equal”.  Watch this video with your kids and discuss their reactions.

What else does it mean to be “free and equal”? the United Nations recently launched a new campaign called “Free & Equal” for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality.  There are fact sheets, information about a film series, and much more on the Free & Equal website.  You can even check out the very first Bollywood video for gay rights.  The UN is asking that you share if you believe everyone should be welcomed into their family’s hearts, regardless of their sexual orientation.

The 2015 “Faces” video from the Free & Equal campaign celebrates the contributions that millions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people make to families and local communities around the world. The cast features “real people” (not actors), filmed in their workplaces and homes — among them, a firefighter, a police officer, a teacher, an electrician, a doctor and a volunteer, as well as prominent straight ally and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Can you see past the label?

If you are not sure how to talk to your kids about LGBT issues, check out these Human Rights Campaign resources that provide the language and information needed to discuss lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and issues in an age appropriate way with children and youth.

I hope you and your families have a great Human Rights Day 2015!  If you have other ideas for human rights activities, please share them with us!

My Daughter Drew Me This Picture

My 10-year-old daughter drew me this picture and slipped it into my briefcase as a surprise.

Sometimes it is children who have the  strongest sense of justice. How do we lose that as adults?

 I’m going to hang this picture in my office where I can see it every day –

a reminder to never give up!

Human Rights Day Activities For You and Your Kids!

Image by ZenPencils.com
Image by Zen Pencils created for Blog Action Day 2013

   Originally published on World Moms Blog.

Each year on December 10, people all around the world celebrate Human Rights Day.  

The date was chosen to honor the United Nations General Assembly‘s adoption on 10 December 1948 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the first global statement of international human rights principles.

As we have done on World Moms Blog before (see

10 Things to Do With Your Kids on Human Rights Day

and

Human Rights Activities To Do With Your Kids),

we’re sharing some ideas this year for simple yet meaningful ways for your family to celebrate the rights and responsibilities that we all share as human beings.

 

 

 

 

1.  Learn about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  The full UDHR is on the UN website here, but you can also find a simplified version of the UDHR here.  And check out this cool video created by the Human Rights Action Center that summarizes the rights in the UDHR:

2.  Be a mapper for UNICEF Voices of Youth.   UNICEF has created an online platform to empower youth around the world to map important issues in their community, advocate and bring change. A featured tool from Voices of Youth Maps is UNICEF-GIS – a youth-friendly mobile mapping application that produces web maps and visual reports on youth-related issues. UNICEF is asking youth to

Open a window into your community and share issues that you and your friends and family face. Tell us about the experiences you live, share your success stories and show us the beauty of your cultural background. Post on Voices of Youth and make your voice heard!

You and your kids can read about and see photo galleries by youth mappers in Brazil and Haiti here.   Click here to get involved in Voices of Youth.

 

 

UDHR Article 21 right to participate in government –  perfect for elections in November!

3.  Make a Human Rights Calendar for 2015.  Choose a UDHR article (or two or three) to focus on each month.  Decorate the calendar with photos and drawings that illustrate the right(s).  Try to coordinate the UDHR rights with local, national, and international holidays.  For example, choose Article 15 (right to a nationality) for the month of your country’s national independence day and Article 18 (right to practice your religion) during a religious holiday period.  You can download free calendar templates here.

4.  Learn about a human rights heroine or hero.  Pick your favorite activist for social justice, either from your country or another country.  Go to the library to find a biography or search online for information about her/his life.  Try to find out:

Mandela memorial painted on a building in Capetown, South Africa.
Mandela memorial painted on a building in Capetown, South Africa.
  • When the person lived (if not still living).
  • What problem (or problems) they faced.
  • Who or what formed their opposition.
  • What was the outcome of the stand they took, in which they believed?
  • What tactics did they use in their campaign?
  • How much success do you think they had?

What did you learn that surprised you?  What else would you like to know about this person?  Brainstorm your own questions together!

5.  Explore what it means to be a peacemaker.  You can interview each other or other kids or adults.  Ask each other

  • What does peace mean to you?
  • Describe a time when you experienced peace.  Where were you?  What were you doing? Who was with you?
  • When was a time when you were a peacemaker? What happened? Who were the people involved? How did it turn out?
  • Are there some ways that you think you are not a peacemaker?
  • Who do you know who you would describe as a peacemaker?  What does this person do that you consider peacemaking? Why do think of these actions as peacemaking?

Ideas number 4 and 5 are from the Hague Appeal for Peace’s curriculum Learning to Abolish War: Teaching Toward a Culture of Peace.  Check out more ideas for teaching about peace in this resource.

6.  Learn more about the work of United Nations human rights experts.  “Special Rapporteur” is a title given to individuals working on behalf of the United Nations who bear a specific mandate from the UN Human Rights Council to investigate, monitor and recommend solutions to human rights problems. Appointed by the UN Secretary General, these experts are “of high moral character and recognized competence in the field of human rights.” They act independently of governments.  Special Rapporteurs often conduct fact-finding missions to countries to investigate allegations of human rights violations.  They also regularly assess and verify complaints from alleged victims of human rights violations. Once a complaint is verified as legitimate, an urgent letter or appeal is sent to the government that has allegedly committed the violation. To learn more, you can listen to the podcast series Meet the Special Rapporteurs.

 7.  Participate in the 7 Billion Others project.  In this beautiful series of portraits of humanity, more than 6000 people from around the world have answered the same 40 questions, including: What did you learn from your parents? What would you like to pass on to your children? What challenges have you had to face? What does love mean to you?  Series creator Yann Arthus-Bertrand says,

There are more than seven billion of us on Earth, and there will be no sustainable development if we cannot manage to live together. That is why 7 billion Others is so important to me. I believe in it because it concerns all of us and because it encourages us to take action. I hope that each one of us will want to reach out and make these encounters to listen to other people and to contribute to the life of 7 billion Others by adding our own experiences and expressing our desire to live together. 

Download chapters of the eBook to read what more than 500 people shared about their experiences or simply spend some time exploring the videos of people testifying (there is even a helpful search function).    Listen to thematically organized podcasts to hear people from different parts of the world voice their opinions on common experiences like freedom, anger, love, and family.  You can even add your own testimony by video or text.  

8.  Look for human rights in the news.   Clip articles about local, national and international human rights issues out of newspapers and magazines.  Listen to radio or watch television news programming and point out the human rights coverage.  Be sure to look for news about human rights successes as well as news about human rights problems.

9.  Learn more about the human rights issues related to the products you buy.  The International Labour Organization estimates that more than a quarter of a million children work in the cocoa plantations of West Africa that produce most of the world’s chocolate. It’s hazardous work, which exposes children to injury and highly toxic pesticides. Hershey’s, the largest chocolate manufacturer in North America, has not thoroughly addressed accusations of child labor in its supply chain and refuses to release any information about where it sources its cocoa. Consumers play an essential role in diminishing the food industry’s injustices. You and your children can make the choice to buy chocolate that is not made with child labor.  See a list of the companies that do NOT use child labor in their chocolate production here.  Read more about child labor in the cocoa industry here.

Twin Cities March to Bring Back Our Girls, May 2014

 

10.  Get out there and raise your voice for what you believe in. Participate in a march or protest related to an issue that is important to you. And be sure to bring your kids!  There is no better way to teach empathy and compassion for others than by doing it together.

 

 

 

You and your kids are on your way to a great Human Rights Day!  What are YOU going to do this year? Please share YOUR ideas for human rights activities with us in the comments.

 

 

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:  If you are a classroom teacher or homeschooling your kids (or if you just want to dig deeper), you can find tons more ideas through the following resources:

United Nations Cyber Schoolbus – human rights activities and information about the United Nations’ work

ABC – Teaching Human Rights – practical activities in English, French, Russian, Arabic, Chinese, and Spanish from the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

The Advocates for Human Rights’ Discover Human Rights Institute – human rights education lesson plans and curriculum

Human Rights Here and Now  – human rights lesson plans and resources

Raising Children With Roots, Rights and Responsibilities – activities for preschool and young elementary children

UNRIC’s Human Rights Education website –  great source for multimedia on human rights!
See also my past posts on Human Rights Day activities:

 

Human Rights Day Activities To Do With Your Kids

This post was originally written for World Moms Blog.

IMG_1800Every December 10, people around the world celebrate Human Rights Day.  The date was chosen to honor the United Nations General Assembly‘s adoption on 10 December 1948 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the first global statement of international human rights principles.  As we have done on World Moms Blog before (see 10 Things to Do With Your Kids on Human Rights Day), we’re sharing some ideas for simple yet meaningful ways for your family to celebrate the rights and responsibilities that we all share as human beings.

1.  Make a World Wishes Dove with your family.  Cut feathers from white paper or colored construction paper.  Have everyone in the family decorate and write their wish for the world on a feather.    Cut out the body of a dove or other bird and glue all the feathers on it.  Once decorated, your bird will be a beautiful and hopeful expression of your family’s hopes for our world.

Template for a doveImage Source
Template for a dove
Image Source
2.  Play a game that helps kids understand human rights.  Blind Trust (from ABC – Teaching Human Rights):  In pairs, have one child blindfold the other and have the sighted member of the pair lead the “blind” one about for a few minutes. Make sure the leading child is not abusing the power to lead, since the idea is to nurture trust, not to destroy it. The “leader” of the pair should try to provide as wide a variety of experiences as possible, such as hav- ing the “blind” partner feel things with his or her feet or fingers, leading with vocal directions or even playing a game. After a few minutes have the children reverse the roles and repeat the process so that the “leader” is now the led, and the “blind” partner is now the sighted one.

Once the activity is over, allow the children to talk about what happened. Discuss how they felt – not just as “blind” partners but their feelings of responsibility as “leaders” too. This can lead not only to a greater awareness of what life is like for people with sight (or hearing) disabilities, but to a discussion of the importance of trust in the whole community. This can lead in turn to a discussion of world society, how it works and how it can fail to work too.  (teaches about Universal Declaration of Human Rights article 28; Convention on the Rights of the Child articles 3, 23)

3.  Learn about how children live in other countries.  For example, you can learn what kinds of food children in East Africa grow and eat from the Lessons from Africa resource created by the British non-governmental organization Send A Cow (also check out their website http://www.cowforce.com).  You can download the  powerpoint  about typical East African food.   You can also print out some of the recipes for things like chapatis and pepper soup to make and try for yourself.

4.  Find out what kids and teens can do to help stop child labor.  The ILO’s Youth in Action against Child Labour campaign has ideas, information,  videos and other resources to help young people take action to end child labor.

5.  Play Human Rights Twister to teach about cooperation, respect and inclusion.   Make a “Twister” game in which kids spell out key human rights words using their feet and hands.  Draw a grid with 6 columns and 5 rows with marker on a  large piece of cloth (like an old sheet) or plastic (like a plastic tablecloth). You can also use chalk to draw it on the ground. Write the following letters in the grid:

(blank) W X Y Z(blank)


Q R S T U V

K L M N O P

E F G H I J

(blank space)A B C D(blank)

Ask the children to name some rights and list them on a large piece of paper or whiteboard. Underline a key word in each right from this list of rights in one word:

Dignity            Education            Equality             Food            Freedom            Home            Love (from parents)            Name

Nationality          Opinion          Participation (in decisions that affect us)          Play          Protection          Religion

When you have listed at least 3 or 4 rights, have the children spell out the key word in the human right from the list by placing their hands and feet on the  appropriate letters of the “Twister” game.  When 1 child’s hands and feet are in place and the word is not yet completed, ask another child to join in  to complete the word. If the hand or foot of another  child already covers a letter, the player just has to touch the child that is on that letter.  When a letter is too far to reach, invite another child to join in.  (This activity and dozens of others to teach about human rights values and peaceful conflict resolution are available for free download in the Canadian organization EquitasPlay It Fair Toolkit. )

6.  Make toys and play games that children play in other countries.  Many kids throughout the world live in poverty and don’t have money to buy toys and games.  They make their own toys out of recycled materials that they find.  Your kids can try making a football (soccer ball) out of recycled plastic bags or a toy car made from a plastic bottle.

You can also  make and play the Sudanese game “Dala” (the Cow Herder Game).  In many parts of the world, games mimic everyday life; this game mimics the Sudanese practice of bull herding.  Sudanese people play it on the ground, using sticks to make the lines and pebbles or seeds as “bulls”.

7.  Ask the question “What Does a Child Need?”  Have your child lie down on a large piece of paper and trace their outline on the paper.  Ask your child(ren) to name this paper child. Discuss and decide on the mental, physical, spiritual and character qualities they want this ideal child to have as an adult (e.g. good health, sense of humour, kindness) and write these qualities inside the outline. They might also make symbols on or around the child to represent these ideal qualities (e.g. books to represent education). Talk about what human and material resources the child will need to achieve these qualities (e.g. if the child is to be healthy, it will need food and health care); write them down on the paper outside of the outline.  You can also read a simplified version of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (available in English, French, Spanish, Russian, German, etc.)  When children hear an article that guarantees a child each of the needs they have listed, they can write the number of the articles next to that item. Circle any needs identified but not covered by the Convention.

DSC_0599

 

8.  Read some books with strong female characters.   Non-discrimination and equality are key concepts in international human rights law.  Yet girls and women are generally not been portrayed as equals to boys and men in literature.  A Mighty Girl has compiled several great lists of girl-empowering books, including Top Read Aloud Books Starring Mighty Girls,  Top 100 Mighty Girl Picture BooksTop Graphic Novels Starring Mighty Girls, and Top Mighty Girl Books & Films on Women’s History.

9.   Get creative and enter your work in a contest with a human rights theme.   Local, regional or international contests are powerful activities for getting youth involved and learning about human rights.  Take action by entering some of the contests listed here on the Youth For Human Rights website.  (You can also learn more on the website about their educational programs, projects, awareness campaigns and human rights outreach campaigns.)

10.  Make a Human Rights Day card.  You can give the card to a friend or member of your family.  Or you can make multiple cards to decorate your house.   My eight year old daughter (that’s her self-portrait in the background) made this card for all the children of the world.

IMG_1502

 

 

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:  You’re on your way to a great Human Rights Day!  If you are a classroom teacher or homeschooling your kids (or if you just want to dig deeper), you can find tons more ideas through the following resources:

My past posts on Human Rights Day activities:

United Nations Cyber Schoolbus – human rights activities and information about the United Nations’ work

ABC – Teaching Human Rights – practical activities in English, French, Russian, Arabic, Chinese, and Spanish from the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

The Advocates for Human Rights’ Discover Human Rights Institute – human rights education lesson plans and curriculum

Human Rights Here and Now  – human rights lesson plans and resources

Raising Children With Roots, Rights and Responsibilities – activities for preschool and young elementary children

UNRIC’s Human Rights Education website –  great source for multimedia on human rights!

The Human Rights Lesson

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I spent some time in my daughter’s classroom last week talking to the second graders about human rights.  I’ve been a guest speaker in all of my kids’ classrooms and have done this presentation (a kind of human rightsy mash-up of show-and-tell and career day) pretty much every year since my oldest was in second grade.  But this time was different.  I discovered the night before I was scheduled to speak in her class that my daughter, who just turned 8, was planning to do the presentation on human rights WITH me.

I have a more-or-less standard routine and she knew it well.  (I wrote a post called Same and Different about doing this human rights lesson in my sons’ classrooms.)  First, I do an activity that I call Same and Different.  I have several photos from West Africa that I had blown up and mounted on foamcore.  I show the kids a photo and have them point out what they see in the picture that is the same in their lives and what is different.  It always generates great discussion and often the kids see things in the photos and make connections that I never did.  Hopefully, by showing that all humans have similarities in spite of our differences, it also plants some seeds of respect and tolerance.

When I got to her classroom, my daughter brought her small plastic chair to the front of the class and set it down firmly right next to mine.  After introducing me (with the class microphone), she sat down beside me.  She had assigned herself the assistant’s job of holding the photos for all to see while I led the discussion.  A couple of times I had to remind her to hold the photo out so that all the kids could see, but overall she did a great job.

The next activity I do is to pass around a selection of items that I have picked up on my travels for work.  As we pass them around so that everyone gets a chance to touch them, we again discuss what is the same and different in our lives.  This time, I didn’t gather a thing for the activity; my daughter collected everything the night before our presentation.  A yak wool blanket from Nepal, a wooden statue of  a traditional palava hut from Liberia, coins and bills from Cameroon – all went into a bag I had brought her from Ghana.  She even added her pink beaded pointy-toed slippers from Morocco.  When I reminded her that she would have to share and let everyone touch them and try them on,  she hesitated for a moment.  In the end, though, her slippers went into the bag.

To close out the presentation, I usually read a children’s book or two about human rights.  I have a couple of favorites.  For Every Child, A Better World by Kermit the Frog is one that we own two copies of, but of course we couldn’t find either when we needed it.  I went to library to check out a copy and discovered shelved right beside it I Have the Right to Be a Child by Alain Serres.  This beautifully illustrated book presents the concept of human rights, especially those of children as set out in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

When I brought the books home from the library, I asked my daughter,

“Which do you want me to read to your class?”

“I want to read them both,” she said.

She did a beautiful job of reading both books to the class.  I was so proud that I teared up, right there in front of all the second graders and their teacher.

In some ways, it is easier to talk to kids about human rights than adults.  Because children generally see things in terms of black and white, right and wrong, it is easy for them to understand that we all have rights – the right to voice our opinions, to go to school, to be free from violence.  The right to have food and shelter and clean air and water.  The thing about kids is that they have a very strong natural sense of justice (as it applies to them, at least) they understand the inequities of a world where not everyone is able to access those rights.

One girl  came up and hugged me after the human rights lesson.

“It makes me sad,” she said, “to think that not all kids have enough to eat.”

“What you are feeling is empathy,” said the teacher.  “And that’s good.”

Knowing about the problem – caring about it and wanting to do something about it – is the first step towards change.

The last thing I heard as I left the classroom was another little girl saying,

“I think I am going to write a letter to President Obama and ask him why we are not part of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.”

There are a lot of things about working in human rights that are not easy, but this was a very  good day!

More ideas for human rights activities to do with children:

10 Things to Do With Your Kids on Human Rights Day

10 More Things to Do With Your Kids on Human Rights Day

Same and Different

10 More Things to Do With Your Kids on Human Rights Day!

Last year for Human Rights Day, I wrote a post for World Moms Blog on 10 Things To Do With Your Kids on Human Rights Day.  The date of December 10 was chosen to honor the United Nations General Assembly‘s adoption on 10 December 1948 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the first global statement of international human rights principles.  But ten things are not enough, so here are a few more ideas for simple and meaningful activities to do with your kids on Human Rights Day (December 10) 2012.

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1.  Make a one minute video showing what “It’s About Ability!” means to you, whether in the world at large or to you personally. The deadline for the It’s About Ability youth video contest on children with disabilities is December 15, 2012.  But even if you don’t enter the contest or make a video, you and your kids can learn about and discuss the rights of children with disabilities by reading the “Thoughts for inspiration” in the contest guidelines and this simple explanation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (which also includes more ideas for things you can do to change attitudes and rules so that children who have disabilities can go to school, play and take part in activities that every child wants to do.)  The Learning Guide to the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, designed to empower kids ages 12-18 to advocate for the rights of persons with disabilities, can be found here.

2.  Make a World Wishes Dove with your family.  Cut feathers from white paper or colored construction paper.  Have everyone in the family decorate and write their wish for the world on a feather.    Cut out the body of a dove or other bird and glue all the feathers on it.  Once decorated, your bird will be a beautiful and hopeful expression of your family’s hopes for our world.

Template for a doveImage Source
Template for a dove
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Thankful turkey

(Note: this project was inspired by the Thankful Turkey at my daughter’s school.  You can read more about that here.)

3.  Learn about the challenges that children living in poverty face have overcome to succeed in school.  Play the United Way‘s PASS THE GRADE  game.  In honor of the first  Giving Tuesday on November 27th, The Greater Twin Cities United Way launched a fun, educational online game called PASS THE GRADE.  (My friend ThirdEyeMom wrote about PASS THE GRADE; read her post here.)

4.  Watch some UNICEF Cartoons for Child’s Rights together.  Cartoons for Children’s Rights is a UNICEF broadcast initiative that aims to inform people around the world about children’s rights. The effort has forged partnerships with many well-known animation studios that have developed more than 80 half-minute public service announcements based on the articles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Each PSA illustrates a right described in the global rights treaty, such as ‘Freedom from Child Labour’ or ‘Protection from Neglect’. All the spots are non-verbal, in order to get the rights message across to everyone, regardless of language. The spots have aired on more than 2,000 television stations globally.  Links to the top 10 can be found here.

5.  Do an anti-bullying activity together like Sticks and Stones from Teach Peace Now.   Ask your child what think about the saying  “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but names can really hurt me.” Have they heard another version of this saying? Which is truer?  Have they ever had someone say something to them that hurt their feelings. Has someone ever hurt them physically or tried to scare them or one of their friends? Have they ever hurt someone by something they said or did? You can give a personal example of a time you were a victim or a witness to bullying or hurt someone’s feelings. You can also read a book about bullying like This is Our HouseHey, Little Ant, Mr. Lincoln’s WaySay Something, or Simon’s Hook.

Give each child some light gray paper “stones.” Have your kids write a behavior that could hurt someone or make them feel bad such as calling someone a name, or tripping someone. Younger children can draw a picture.  Have them wrinkle up the “stone” and then try to smooth it out. Explain that once someone has been hurt, it is never forgotten. You cannot remove the hurt. The wrinkles will always be there.

Hang stones on wall to create a wall of intolerance or sit in a circle and pile the rocks up in the middle. Ask the kids to think about ways to prevent these bad things from happening. You can make a list together of ideas.

6.  Go on a hunt for the human rights words around you.  Human rights is not about complicated concepts; human rights is about the core values that everyone needs to live fully in this world.  In talking about human rights with my own kids, I realized that I needed to start with the basic building blocks of language: words. Read more about how, once I realized that, I started to see human rights words all around me in HUMAN RIGHTS: Speaking The Language.

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7.  Start a tradition of doing a family service project on Human Rights Day.   There are many opportunities to volunteer, such as preparing and serving meals at a local homeless shelter.  The Lappin family has done this for two years in a row now in their community in Washington state.
Lappins
Dad Nathan describes it as “Such a humbling and at the same time rewarding experience. Feels really good to concretely help others and appreciate what we have as well. Our kids did a great job helping and participating, and interacting with the kids we were hosting.”
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Even if your family isn’t able to volunteer in an established project, you can still do something as a family to address the economic and social rights in your community.  For example, put together care packages with warm socks or mittens, a water bottle, individually wrapped snacks (and maybe even decorate a card to stick inside) and offer them to homeless men and women who you may encounter during the day.  Or have your kids decorate a few grocery bags and fill them with non-perishable food items, then bring your kids with you when you drop them off at the food shelf.
Most importantly, spend some time talking with your kids about your family’s service experience.  Talk about what you did and why you did it. Ask your kids, “How did it feel?” and “What did you learn from doing this project.”
8.  Play a game that helps kids understand human rights.  Blind Trust (from ABC – Teaching Human Rights):  In pairs, have one child blindfold the other and have the sighted member of the pair lead the “blind” one about for a few minutes. Make sure the leading child is not abusing the power to lead, since the idea is to nurture trust, not to destroy it. The “leader” of the pair should try to provide as wide a variety of experiences as possible, such as hav- ing the “blind” partner feel things with his or her feet or fingers, leading with vocal directions or even playing a game. After a few minutes have the children reverse the roles and repeat the process so that the “leader” is now the led, and the “blind” partner is now the sighted one.

Once the activity is over, allow the children to talk about what happened. Discuss how they felt – not just as “blind” partners but their feelings of responsibility as “leaders” too. This can lead not only to a greater awareness of what life is like for people with sight (or hearing) disabilities, but to a discussion of the importance of trust in the whole community. This can lead in turn to a discussion of world society, how it works and how it can fail to work too.  (teaches about Universal Declaration of Human Rights article 28; Convention on the Rights of the Child articles 3, 23)

9.  Ask the question “What Does a Child Need?”  Have your child lie down on a large piece of paper and trace their outline on the paper.  Ask your child(ren) to name this paper child. Discuss and decide on the mental, physical, spiritual and character qualities they want this ideal child to have as an adult (e.g. good health, sense of humour, kindness) and write these qualities inside the outline. They might also make symbols on or around the child to represent these ideal qualities (e.g. books to represent education). Talk about what human and material resources the child will need to achieve these qualities (e.g. if the child is to be healthy, it will need food and health care); write them down on the paper outside of the outline.  You can also read a simplified version of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  When children hear an article that guarantees a child each of the needs they have listed, they can write the number of the articles next to that item. Circle any needs identified but not covered by the Convention.

10.  Check out the Amnesty International You Tube channel.  Amnesty has uploaded more than 500 short videos on a wide variety of global human rights issues. Many videos are in multiple languages, including Spanish and Arabic.  (Given the subject matter, many are more suitable for older kids and teenagers than younger kids. Be sure to preview for anything that might be upsetting to your own children.)

The Price of Silence – A music video that brings together 16 of the worlds top musicians—some of whom have fled oppressive regimes—in a rousing musical plea to guarantee human rights for all.

Wyclef Jean sings One Love in this slideshow about Children’s Rights

 ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:  You’re on your way to a great Human Rights Day!  If you are a classroom teacher or homeschooling your kids (or if you just want to dig deeper), you can find tons more ideas through the following resources:

MY 2013 HUMAN RIGHTS DAY POST HUMAN RIGHTS DAY ACTIVITIES TO DO WITH YOUR KIDS

MY 2014 HUMAN RIGHTS DAY POST HUMAN RIGHTS DAY ACTIVITIES FOR YOU & YOUR KIDS

ABC – Teaching Human Rights – practical activities in English, French, Russian, Arabic, Chinese, and Spanish

The Advocates for Human Rights’ Discover Human Rights Institute – human rights education lesson plans and curriculum

Human Rights Here and Now  – human rights lesson plans and resources

Raising Children With Roots, Rights and Responsibilities – activities for preschool and young elementary children

UNRIC’s Human Rights Education website –  great source for multimedia on human rights!