Action Activity 3
Getting to Know the Activists Among Us


Time: Variable
Materials: Copy of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and/or the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)
Setting: High school


1. Ask students what we mean when we call someone an "activist." Record their responses.

2. Explain that the purpose of this activity is to learn about people in their community working for certain causes, especially those related to human rights, and the types of activities with which they are involved.

3. Write five headings on the board:

Student Activist Organizations

ADULT Activist Organizations

Student activists

Faculty and Staff Activists

Adult Activists in the Community

4. Brainstorm the names of local people and organizations that might fit these categories and list them under the five headings. Next to each name write the issue or concern of that person or group. Encourage the class to think broadly (e.g., religious organizations, parent-teacher groups, individuals who have been responsible for mobilizing community projects, local chapters of national organizations).

5. Analyze the list to determine which individuals and groups are working for causes related to human rights. Star these and identify the specific right in the UDHR and/or CRC that they work to advance. Remember to include social, economic, and cultural rights as well as civil rights in your definition of human rights.

6. Assign or have students choose an individual or organization to research, interview, and report on to the class. Clarify how they are to present their research, i.e. written, oral, or some other method. Younger students may feel more comfortable interviewing in pairs.

7. As a class or in small groups, have students construct interview questions. Review and approve the questions before students make the interviews.

See Sample Interview Questions for ideas.

8. Assign each student a time to report back to the class.

Going Further

1. Action to Address Human Rights Issues – Students might identify specific human rights problems in their school or community or in the United States and discuss which types of organizations or individual efforts might provide the best way to address those problems.

2. Action for Human Rights in the News – Students might bring in articles about individual activists or organizations that work for human rights. They can identify the types of human right issues on which the person or organization works and match the issue with specific articles of the UDHR and/or CRC.

3. Address Files – Students may wish to send for information on various human rights organizations. You may wish to set up classroom or library files to use for future reference.

4. A Booklet on Community Activism – Although reporting back orally is the best way to encourage discussion, you may also want students to prepare one-page summaries about the organizations and individuals they researched. These can be included in a booklet distributed to the entire class. This booklet can be used for future homework or class assignments. Give copies as well to the local historical society as a record of social action in the community.

5. Articles on Community Activism – Students could also write articles based on their experiences for school or community newspapers.

Helpful Considerations for the Teacher

  • For assistance in compiling a list of local organizations, you may eventually want to direct students to look in the Yellow Pages of the telephone book under "Social Service Organizations," some of which will be appropriate for this activity. Local newspapers might help you discover other individuals or organizations involved in social change. Depending on the time available and how you choose to structure the activity, you may wish to have some students perform a voluntary survey of the faculty and staff at the school to find out the type of activist work they are involved in, which is often not general knowledge.

  • IMPORTANT: Students should have a classmate or adult accompany them to the interview. You may wish to notify parents of the assignment in advance and secure their permission for students’ participation.

  • It would also be helpful to review basic telephone courtesy and skills and to give students some guidelines about how to conduct a polite and effective interview. Also set up a structure so that each student is held accountable for sending a thank-you note to the interviewee. You might want to set due dates for the notes and have students hand them to you before mailing.

Source: Pilar Garrido, teacher, Eden Prairie High School, Eden Prairie, Minnesota; Karen Kraco, Human Rights Educators’ Network, Amnesty International USA.


Sample Interview Questions

Ideally students will come up with their own interview questions, but they may need help. Below are some examples to stimulate thinking.

  • On what type of social problems do you work? Why do you think they are important?
  • Why do you think these problems exist?
  • Do you think your work addresses the cause of the problem? If so, how?
  • How did you become involved in this type of work? What inspired you to continue working for social change?
  • How long have you been involved in this work?
  • What are some of the approaches and methods you use in your work?
  • What are some of the problems you face in your work?
  • Is this volunteer or paid work?
  • How much time do you spend?
  • What organizations or individuals do you interact with in the school or community?
  • What special skills, if any, do you need in this work?
  • What do you like best about this work? Least?
  • How do you educate the public about this issue?
  • What are the sources of your funding to do this work?
  • How did the organization get started?
  • How many people work for this organization and what do they do? Are they paid or are they volunteers?
  • Do you consider yourself an activist? Why or why not?
  • What are ways that young people can take effective action for change in the community?
  • Do you consider what you do human rights work?
  • What role do you think students can play in the type of work your organization does?

copyright information


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