Action Activity 2
Stories of Students Who Took Action


Students read and discuss case stories of young human rights advocates. They then consider what problems exist in their community or school and relate them to human rights principles. They role play these problems and possible solutions and discuss student activism.

Time: 1-1/2 hours or 2 class periods
Materials: Copies of Handout 1, Stories of Students Who Took Action, and Handout 2, Questions about the Stories, for each group
For older students: Copies of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and/or the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).
Setting: Elementary school
Links: Should be preceded by activities that introduce rights principles and the UDHR (e.g., Part III, Activities 1-6).
Part III, Activity 7, Mapping Human Rights, relates rights to the local community.


1. Read the case stories to students or ask older students to read them to each other in small groups.

2. Divide the class into 6 groups. Give each a copy of one of the stories and discussion questions. Ask the groups to read their stories aloud and answer the questions on the sheet.

3. When each group has finished the questions, discuss the different responses and interpretations the stories elicited.

4. Ask what human rights issues appear in each of the three cases and list these on the board. Ask older students to link these to specific articles in the UDHR or CRC.

5. Discuss:

  • What are some human rights problems in our community? In our school? (List issues as they are mentioned.)

  • Which of these problems could be affected by students taking action?

  • What specific human rights are involved in the problems that students might address? (List the rights; ask older students to match them with articles of the UDHR.)

6. Ask students, working in the same small groups, to choose one community or school problem from their class list and use it to create a short role play. Role plays should –

  • identify the human right problem

  • identify the community member(s) affected by the problem

  • illustrate a possible solution

7. After each group has presented its role play, discuss some of these topics:

  • Who has responsibility for human rights? Do individuals as well as the government? Do young people as well as adults? Can the class provide examples?

  • Can students really make a difference? Are the case stories unusual, or could they happen in this community or school?

  • When students reconsider the list of problems generated in Step 5, which ones do they think could be affected by the actions of people like themselves?

Going Further

1. Stories of Action – Ask students to write a story, draw a picture, or make a collage describing a situation in which they or a friend took action to solve a problem.

2. Strategizing Action – Have students brainstorm as a class or make lists individually to answer the following questions:

  • To whom would you talk or write if you wanted to solve a problem at school?

  • To whom would you talk or write if you wanted to solve a problem in your neighborhood?

3. Helpful considerations for the teacher

  • The role play and activities in "Going Further" will provide insights into students’ perceptions about the decision-making process in their school and community. In the discussion you may wish to explore their ideas about the power and responsibility of certain individuals or decision-making bodies, such as the principal or school board. You will want to correct their misperceptions and extend their understanding of the appropriate avenues through which they can address their concerns. Ideally this exercise will lay the groundwork for enabling students to use the appropriate channels to have their opinions and concerns heard.

  • Discuss with students the possibility of responding to a human rights problem together as a class. It is important that students always are permitted to choose the community action topic. It must be something they can relate to and care about.

Source: Karla Stone, teacher, Armstrong High School, Plymouth, Minnesota.

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  Human Rights Fundamentals The Right to Know Your Rights Activities Taking Action for Human Rights Appendices