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What is this project about?

Rights, rights, human rights. The word gets around. Everyone everywhere has human rights, but not everyone everywhere respects them. What are they anyway? how did we get them? what do we do with them?

This project will help students understand the idea of human rights, gain a sense of themselves as people with dignity and hence with rights, and finally encourage them to act.

The main focus of the project is action: your students in action. The CyberSchoolBus wants to collect inspiring stories of classes or schools defending and promoting human rights in their own communities, neighborhoods and cities. These stories will become part of a global atlas of student actions compiled and published on the World Wide Web by the UN CyberSchoolBus. Some classes may already be engaged in such activities. Others can use ideas and suggestions from the teaching guide to launch new projects. For submissions, there will be a specific form to fill out, which can be done by e-mail or on the World Wide Web.

The project hopes to demonstrate that young people around the world are active in and concerned about their world; that the notion of rights has relevance everywhere in the world; and that young students can, indeed, make a difference. By bringing together the stories of student action, the project hopes to create a resource that will provide concrete examples to emulate and will inspire new and original actions.

The teaching materials provided give students a way into understanding human rights in general and the Universal Declaration in particular. The teaching materials can be used as a basis for the other activities.

Classroom Guide
Explaining the project to teachers
While each step of the project can be done independently, the project is designed to build on itself. This is the framework:
  1. The project starts with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a document;
  2. It expands the discussion to the notion of human rights in general;
  3. It gets into specifics about rights in your community and how they came about;
  4. Finally, it ends with what you and your students could be or are doing for human rights.
The project will be carried out both through e-mail and the World Wide Web. It is up to the teacher to decide which activities to focus on. However, keep in mind that if you want to submit questions from your class to experts or if you want to submit a report to be included in the final global atlas of student actions, you must submit student reports by the deadlines and according to the guidelines.

The project consists of ‘static resources’, or documents that are on the web, and ‘real-time activities’, such as question-and-answer sessions and the student action reports.

When you register by e-mail, you receive a text version of the Universal Declaration along with your welcome message. The Declaration is also available under the ‘Resources and Links’ section. All key documents and activities will be e-mailed to you if you are registered for the project. You can also access them—and other resources—via the web site: http://www.un.org/Pubs/CyberSchoolBus/humanrights

The document entitled ‘Understanding Human Rights’ provides clear background information on the ideal of human rights and how that ideal is upheld and enforced in the real world. The section called ‘Actions and Activities’ contains the main activity of the project. The goal of this activity, ‘Human Rights in Action’, is to develop a global atlas of human rights actions taken by students such as those in your school.

Explaining the project to students
  1. Students all over the world are participating in a project about human rights.
  2. All these students will first find out what human rights are and then see what rights they themselves have and how they got those rights. This will happen through activities, classroom discussions and question-and-answer sessions with experts.
  3. As part of the project, students will get active to increase respect for human rights. They will plan an action in their own communities and then carry it out. (Teachers should provide an appropriate example of such action).
  4. Students will be ‘special rapporteurs’ and send a brief report of their action to the United Nations CyberSchoolBus. Their report will become part of a global ‘atlas’ of student actions on human rights.

The steps...
As mentioned above, these activities are designed to build an in- depth understanding of human rights. However, each step can be an independent activity. The focus of the project is on the activity entitled: Human Rights in Action (below). The submissions from that project will constitute an atlas published by the United Nations CyberSchoolBus on the World Wide Web.

Step I
What is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

  • Read the text of the Declaration.
  • Discuss: What is this document? What is a Declaration? Who wrote it? Who signed it? Where did they sign it? Where is it? What is done with it?
  • Activity: Each student can pick one of 30 articles to read out loud. You can refer to our student FAQ or the official FAQ for more answers.

Step II
What are Human Rights?

  • Article 1 of the Declaration sets the stage. It introduces the words dignity, justice and equality.
  • Discuss: What do these three words signify in your own lives? How are they related? What is a human right? What is not a human right? Do we have them naturally, just as we have toes and eyes? What is universal about them? What are our responsibilities towards our rights? Is it the same as our responsiblities towards the rights of others? How can we make sure our rights are respected?
  • Activity: Discuss these issues and send your questions to us to be answered by our panel of experts. You can use the section entitled, ‘Understanding Human Rights’ to help you in discussions.
For more details see the ‘Questions and Answers’ document.

Step III
Teaching the Universal Declaration

  • The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is the principle document enshrining the rights of humankind around the world. The Interactive Declaration, produced for this project, is for educators and students. Each article is discussed and a classroom activity is proposed for each. There is a subject index which allows you to find articles related to specific issues such as women’s rights or labour rights. A "plain language" version of each article along with a glossary complete the Interactive Declaration.
  • Activity: As mentioned, each article in the Interactive Declaration has an activity related to it.
    1. Focus on one or a few articles in depth by:
      1. choosing an issue (say, racial discrimination or refugees or freedom of speech),
      2. finding the related article through the subject index,
      3. carrying out the activities suggested under those articles in the Interactive Declaration,
      4. carrying out the activity: Human Rights in Action, Part 1.
    2. Go through 10 or 20 of the articles in the Interactive Declaration, by doing one activity a day or a week for a period of time. This can be made fun by putting numbers in a hat and having students pick an article randomly.

Step IV
Human Rights in Action

This is the main activity, carried out in two parts. Its main goal is to get students involved in their communities. Students will then act as ‘special rapporteurs’ and report back to us so that their actions may be included in a global atlas of student actions to be published on the World Wide Web. For guidelines and a full description see the separate section on this activity click here.

  • In classroom discussions and assignments, use examples of real people and historical situations in which rights were at stake.
  • Both local and international media carry stories related to human rights; identify them and relate them to an article of the Universal Declaration.
  • Relate the issue of human rights, and its principles, to classroom and school situations.
  • Remember, human rights is not only a topic to teach but a way to teach. Encourage your students to participate in setting the rules, guidelines, and scope of classroom discussions and activities.

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