Electronic Resource Centre for Human Rights Education:
First Steps - a manual for starting Human Rights Education


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This part contains:
  • Starting up - introductory activities
  • Living together - activities about respect
  • Who, me? - activities about responsibility
  • Rights for Life - activities about universality of rights
  • What's fair? - activities about justice
  • My rights / Your rights - activities about situations where rights conflict
  • Action! - taking human rights beyond the classroom


"All I need is an idea...".

Ukrainian student teacher.


Guide to the activities:

To make them easier to use, the activities in this part of the manual all have the same format.


Aim: This, and the brief introduction to each group of activities, tells you why they are useful
Learning points: These are the key concepts contained in the activity. Keep them in mind as you do it,
What you need: This tells you what equipment you will need and what to prepare before the lesson
Time: The times shown are estimates of how long it will take to do the activity and any discussion component.
How to do it: This part explains the activity step-by-step. Where specific methods are used, these are explained in the Part Two of this manual.
Questions: Most of the activities use open questions and discussion to help students to think about the issues raised by the activity. Advice on using open questions and discussion is available in Part Two of this manual.
Choices: These are suggestions for further work on an issue. Some activities have ideas for adapting them for another age group. Others have ideas for human rights actions.
Information / Examples / Gamecards:
Some activities have additional parts. To avoid missing anything, read the whole activity through before attempting it, and check that you have found all the items listed under "What you need".



Starting up -

Because several of the activities in this part of the manual refer to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, here are two activities to help familiarize your students with it.

These activities build on those for younger children in Part Three.


The Imaginary Country
(This activity is based on ideas from Ed O'Brien and Nancy Flowers)

Aim: This activity introduces students to the idea based of rights based on needs, and familiarizes them with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It raises ideas of how we value rights, and the "Choices" give options for making a list of "classroom rights."

Learning points:
- Human Rights documents are based on our own inherent needs.
- We value some rights more highly depending on our own situation, but every right is important to someone.

What you need:
- Simplified Version of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights from Part Five.

Time: About an hour and a quarter for the basic activity.

How to do it:

AImagine that you have discovered a new country, where no one has lived before, and where there are no laws and no rules. You and the other members of your group will be the settlers in this new land. You do not know what social position you will have in the new country."



Rights in the News
(Based on a demonstration by Nancy Flowers)

Aim: This analysis and discussion activity is a good introduction to rights for older students who might already have some mental picture of what human rights are. It helps them to recognize rights and to place a human rights "framework" on everyday situations.

Learning point:
- Rights on paper relate to everyday situations.

What you need:
- Old newspapers and magazines of all kinds, enough for small groups to have at least one each.
- Blackboard or large piece of paper and pens.
- Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Simplified Version of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights from Part Five of this manual.

Time: One hour.

How to do it:

"In our modern world we all have access to more information than ever before. For most of us, this information comes through the media, and especially via the news. Everyday, TV screens and newspapers are filled with situations and stories which are hopeful, tragic, happy, sad, simple or complex. Usually, we look at the terrible news stories and feel powerless. However, by looking again, using the ideas of human rights, we can see patterns of success, where rights are protected and acted upon, and patterns of problems, where rights are denied."

Three phrases:

- Rights denied

- Rights protected

- Rights in action

This could be an article complaining that a municipal health clinic has been closed without consulting  the local community. This would illustrate the denial of the right to health or even life!

- Rights protected:

This could be a story about children who have been rescued from people who were mistreating them.

- Rights in action:

This could be a picture of a footballer scoring a goal, illustrating the rights to leisure, health, freedom of association, or even travel (if it is an international match!)




Living together -
activities about

These activities emphasize that the way we interact every day has a direct effect on respect for human rights. A game with rules raises questions about how laws are made, and an activity about listening focuses on the right to an opinion and the responsibility to respect the opinions of others.

These activities build on those for younger children in Part Three.


Camping Out
(Adapted from an idea in Understand the Law 1994, The Citizenship Foundation)

Aim: This game helps students understand how communities develop rules and laws to protect people's rights.

Learning points:
- Rules of conduct prevent conflict and protect rights.
- Such rules are best made democratically.

What you need:
A copy of the "situations" (see next pages) for each group.

Time: About one and a half hours

How to do it:

"Imagine that you are going on a camping trip with a group of friends. Someone has told you about a wonderful location for a camp, a clearing in the woods near a lake, far from civilization. You have been planning together for several weeks, and finally the weekend arrives. After a long journey, you arrive at the clearing. You have brought everything you need for your holiday, including one large tent for all of you to sleep in. There is a well nearby with good water, and you have permission to cut wood and make fires. There are no other facilities, no rules, and no adults or camp administrator. You set up camp, swim, and prepare for a week of fun!

However, by the end of the first day at the campsite, there have already been some disagreements about how the camp should be run. You all realise that it would be better if you could agree on ways to make your holiday easier. You hold a meeting."


- How did they make their decisions?
- Did anyone disagree?
- Did everyone have an equal say?

After the meeting, all goes well and things are much better. However, after a couple of days, more problems arise, which together you have to sort out to prevent them happening again."




Situation Cards for "Camping Out":

Situation One
Someone has to sleep near the door of the tent, which doesn't close properly. By the morning, this person's belongings have usually spilled out of the opening onto the wet grass. He or she complains that their belongings will be damaged. What do you do?


Situation Two
You all agreed at the meeting how the camp should be run. Now, one of you takes no notice of what was decided. How can you enforce the rules?


Situation Three
Someone left the kettle boiling on the fire and went away to swim. The kettle fell into the fire and sparks set fire to a corner of your tent. You all realise that you have a safety problem. There may be others. What do you do?


Situation Four
Getting water from the well is a very boring job. Everyone would prefer to go swimming than fetch water. However, one of you strains your arm while swimming and can't carry water anymore. This means that the rest of you will each have to spend more time carrying water. What do you do?


Situation Five
Two of you are smokers, the others are not. The non-smokers strongly object to the smell of smoke in the tent but the smokers feel they should be able to smoke whilst they are relaxing. What do you do?


Situation Six
One of you has brought a radio and plays loud music early in the morning. This makes everyone angry. What do you do?


Situation Seven
You all share one tent, but cannot agree about keeping it tidy. Some like the tent to be neat all the time, the others don't. The arguments are affecting the atmosphere in the camp. What do you do?


Situation Eight
Someone damages an expensive guitar belonging to someone else. She or he refuses to pay for the repairs. What do you do?


Situation Nine
A friend of yours joins you for a couple of days. She or he has brought their own tent, but ignores the rules which everyone else has agreed. What do you do?


Situation Ten
Two of you feel that the camp should have a rule about alcohol and drinking. They ask for a meeting to discuss the matter. Most of you are against a complete ban. What do you do?


Active listening

Aim: This listening activity helps students to improve their listening skills and to think about what makes "good" and "bad" listening.

Learning points:
- Listening is an important skill for respecting each others' right to an opinion. (See Article 12 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in Part Five of this manual).
- We can improve our listening skills by practice.

What you need: The boxes "What helps us to listen?" and "What prevents us from listening?" from the next pages.

Time: About 30 minutes

How to do it:



What prevents us from listening?
  • On-off Listening
    People think faster than they talk. This means that when you listen to someone, you have a lot of spare time for thinking. Often, we use this time to think about lunch, or what we did last night, instead of thinking about what the other person is saying!
  • Prejudice Listening
    In every part of the world, there are words or phrases which cause people to stop listening. Words like "capitalist", "communist", "fundamentalist". When people hear these words, they stop listening and start to plan their defence, or a counter-attack.
  •  Closed Mind Listening
    Sometimes, we decide quickly that the person (or the subject) is boring, wrong, or not relevant, or that we know what they are going to say. Then we stop listening.
  • Distracted Listening
    Noise, lights, temperature, other things in the room, or what you ate for breakfast can all prevent us from listening to what people are saying. However, with practice, we can still listen well in these circumstances.


What helps us to listen?

We listen with our bodies as well as with our minds...

  • face the speaker
  • have good eye contact
  • have an open posture (don't fold your arms, turn your back......)
  • lean towards the speaker
  • relax

Listen to what is being said...

  • listen for the central theme, not just the "facts"
  • keep an open mind
  • think ahead
  • analyze and evaluate
  • don't interrupt

Listen to how it is being said...

  • non-verbal signs (for example face expressions, body posture)
  • tone of voice

Listening is important because...

  • It shows people that you value their experience and what they say
  • It encourages people to talk honestly and freely
  • It can help you to identify areas where people agree or disagree, and helps you to think of solutions to these disagreements


Who, me? -
activities about

These activities emphasize personal responsibility. A real-life moral dilemma is used to raise questions about honesty and everyday responsibility. Another activity about censorship looks at the responsible use of power. The overall aim of these activities is to show that rights have corresponding responsibilities.

These activities build on those for younger children in Part Three.


Rights and Responsibilities

Aim: This short listing and discussion activity helps students to understand the connection between rights and responsibilities

Learning point:
- Every right has a corresponding responsibility.

What you need:
- Simplified Version of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (see Part Five).
- Information about Rights and Responsibilities (see next pages).

Time: Forty-five minutes

How to do it: