Success Stories in Elementary Schools
In elementary schools, Rights Sites schools have introduced human rights topics by incorporating human rights principles into teaching and encouraging students to demonstrate respect and compassion for one another. Raising awareness of other cultures and fostering an appreciation for peace are important components of human rights education for younger students. Older elementary students can begin exploring topics such as social responsibility and injustice. Below are examples of how elementary school teachers have integrated human rights into their teaching.
Students in a 4th-6th grade class chose the topic of sweatshops for their in-class work on human rights. After learning about the issue from a visiting speaker, students worked to educate the rest of their school about child labor. They created posters, and presented a sweatshop fashion show to raise money and teach others what they had learned. The next year, a new group of students in an after-school group took up the cause, meeting with the principal to discuss sweatshop issues when she wanted to order new T-shirts for the school.
In addition, the students at this school learned that the soccer balls they had been using in gym class had been made by the hands of child laborers. After learning about the issue in their classroom, then being confronted with it firsthand, the students knew it was their responsibility to do something about it. They took the issue to their local school board and the district subsequently abolished the use of any sports equipment made by child laborers. Their story was featured on a national television news show.
At an elementary school in Minneapolis, students in kindergarten through second grade learned about the culture of Nigeria through instruction that emphasized human rights. In subjects like the arts, geography, reading, and writing, students learned about the general country conditions of Nigeria, focusing on human rights, along with the country’s arts and culture. The project, which lasted for six weeks, culminated in a performance for family and friends. With help from local artists, the students rehearsed and performed a traditional folk tale, complete with African drumming, traditional dance, and singing.
At a Montessori Magnet in St. Paul, MN a 4th-6th grade class participated in Project Common Ground, a program that connects urban and suburban students in the area to learn about human rights together. The group took a field trip to South Dakota, where they learned about Native American perspectives on Mount Rushmore, the Badlands and the Crazy Horse Memorial. The students also studied the 1862 Dakota Conflict.
A Minneapolis-based teacher incorporates human rights principles into her first-grade classroom by emphasizing sharing, cooperation and respect. Under her guidance, students at her school learn to perform small acts of kindness that promote peace. Following then-President Bush’s suggestion, students in the class each donated $1 each to the children of Afghanistan. Students at the school participated in a school-wide peace celebration by writing and presenting performances, including a shadow puppet play, a display and skit about child soldiers, and a musical performance of traditional folk dances from various cultures.
At another school, the Talmud Torah K-4 Jewish Day School in St. Paul, students celebrated the Martin Luther King holiday by taking the Advocates' Road to Peace challenge to become peacemakers in their daily lives. They incorporated the peace theme into their school for the rest of the school year through various projects including the student created problem solving campaign Talk it Out. Way to go!