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!

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10 Things To Do With Your Kids on Human Rights Day!

This is a post that I wrote for World Moms Blog.  Originally published here.

Make your own human rights tapestry!

Human Rights Day is December 10! 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.  Here are some ideas 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. Check out the UDHR plain language version  or the Amnesty International UK book We Are All Born Free (15 of the illustrated pages of the book can be found on The Guardian’s website if you want to look at them online or print them out). You can also watch  a short video together and talk about it with your kids. My kids loved this animated video version of the UDHR even back when they couldn’t understand what the words meant. For a more historical view, check out The Story of Human Rights.

2.  Exercise your right to freedom of expression! Draw pictures together of the rights and freedoms that are important to you. You can make your own family “Human Rights Tapestry” by drawing on index cards and using a hole punch to make holes in each corner.  Use yarn to tie together the cards to make a tapestry. (See the picture above of the Human Rights Tapestry conceived of by Chanida Phaengdara Potter and created by visitors to The Advocates for Human Rights‘ booth at the Minnesota State Fair.) You can alsomake posters or collages together.  Help your kids write a poem or story about human rights.  Older kids can even make a video!

3.  Listen to some human rights music with your kids. Here are a few suggestions, but you might also want to check out the folk music songbook Rise Up Singing.  The book contains the chords and lyrics for more than the 1200 songs on a wide variety of social justice issues.

  • The Rainbow Connection – Kermit the Frog  Someday we’ll find it!
  • If I Had a Hammer – Pete Seeger   Really, anything by Pete Seeger.  Pete is my own personal antidote to Barney.
  • Free to Be You and Me   – Marlo Thomas & Friends     In my opinion, one of the best things about being a kid in the 70s.
  • The Preamble – Schoolhouse Rock      Did you know that the U.S. Constitution is one of the first documents to establish universal principles of human rights?
  • Star Wars Main Title/Rebel Blockade Runner – John Williams   People say Star Wars was a Western set in space, but I see it as a movie about the fight for human rights against the Empire.

4.  Same and Different.  I started doing this activity in my childrens’ classrooms and really learned a lot from the kids about tolerance and respect.  Show your 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.  Here’s an example but more can be found on my blog post Same and Different:

photo by Dulce Foster

The kids’ responses:  ”I like that bracelet.”  ”I sometimes wear my hair in braids, too.” “They have dark skin and I have white skin.”  ”We have different trees here, like conifers.”  ”We have snow here right now.”  ”Is that corn growing behind them?  Because I LOVE to eat corn, too.”  ”Is that a house? It’s not like my house.”  ”You couldn’t live in that house in Minnesota.  You would get too cold.”

5.  Let your kids use their screen time to learn about human rights!  Play games and quizzes on the UN cyberschoolbus.  Check out these free, downloadable video games:

  • Against All Odds  Experience life as a refugee, for ages 7+.
  • Stop Disasters!  Learn how to respond to different humanitarian disasters.
  • Food Force   Gamers ages 8-16 undertake 6 virtual missions to stop world hunger. Download the game in English, French, Norwegian, Portuguese, Korean, etc. (I’ll be testing newly launched Food Force 2  with my 12 year old gamer son. Something tells me he’s going to kick my butt at saving the world!)

Photo from Food Force 2

6.  Talk to someone you know who is from another country.  Where are they from?  What was their life like there?  What language did they speak?  Did they go to school? What do they miss?  What do they like about their new country?

7.  Make a Helping Hands Wreath to symbolize the responsibility we all have to help each other.  Trace your hands on different color construction paper.  Cut out the hand shapes and glue or staple them on a paper plate to make a wreath.

8.  Act out a skit with puppets.  You can use any puppets or even make your own paper bag or sock puppets.  This skit is from RAISING CHILDREN WITH ROOTS, RIGHTS, & RESPONSIBILITIES , but you can also write your own skit, using a problem that your children have had to deal with themselves.

  • Example skit: Puppet 1: Hi everybody, my name is Jan.Puppet 2: Hi, everybody! I’m Sam, and I’m building a bridge. (Puppet is working with blocks.) Jan: Hey, Sam, I need those blocks for the airport I’m building. (Jan takes some blocks.) Sam: Hey! Don’t do that! You’re taking away my right to play!  (Puppets tussle over a block.)
  • Discussion:  What do you think Jan could have done differently? Has anyone ever interfered with your play?  How did that make you feel?
  • “Can you do a different ending to the story?” Choose children to act out the play again with the puppets, but coach them in some respectful ways to play together to share, take turns, or use other solutions they think of themselves.
  • “I know you can act very respectfully and responsibly toward each other. In fact, I’ve seen ________________________ (give examples of a time when acted responsibly).

9.  Read a book about human rights.   There are so many, but for young children, I like  Horton Hears a Who by Dr. Seuss, The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein,  Giving Hand, For Every Child, A Better World by Kermit the Frog. (Yes, I have a thing for Kermit.)

Photo from Wiki Muppets

Older kids may enjoy books more like The Hunger Games and Diary of Anne Frank.  For more ideas for books for teens and tweens, see the Discover Human Rights Institute resources, especially the Peace and Justice booklist and the  Equality and Tolerance booklist.

10.  Take action!  Teach your kids that they really can make a difference in the world.  Collect food and bring it to a local foodshelf.  Write a letter or sign a petition on behalf of a prisoner of conscience. Volunteer to help serve a meal at a homeless shelter.  Raise money from friends or neighbors for UNICEF or another organization working on human rights. (Remember to Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF next Halloween.)  Check out additional service learning ideas for kids in grades K-12 at 160 Ways To Help The World

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 2012 HUMAN RIGHTS DAY POST 10 MORE THINGS TO DO WITH YOUR KIDS ON HUMAN RIGHTS DAY!

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