This guide--developed in conjunction with Rock Your World, a comprehensive social action curriculum--serves as a useful tool to help students take action on any human rights issue that inspires them.

Becoming A Defender

No matter the type of action your students pursue, all activities ideally include the following common elements:

  • A basic understanding of what human rights are all about
  • The inspiration to take action about a chosen issue
  • An informed point of view about the issue
  • An organized plan of action
  • A means of measuring the impact of the action taken

As you guide your students toward becoming defenders, you might consider the following questions:

Do your students have an understanding of human rights?

If your students have worked through the Speak Truth To Power curriculum, they might already be knowledgeable enough about human rights.  

However, if you are just getting started, here’s how you might begin:

Give students copies of the plain language version of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Ask students if there are any rights about which they are unclear and, if so, watch the public service announcements for any of the rights they have a difficult time understanding.

Ask students to give examples of things they have seen in the world, their country, and locally that they believe violate human rights. Next, once the list is up on the board, ask them as a class to pair the correct article from the UDHR with each human right issue they’ve listed.

If would like to spend more time helping students understand the basics of human rights, here are some useful resources.

Are your students already inspired to take action, or are they still uncertain about what issue they might want to pursue?

It is important that students take action around an issue that is personally important to them.

  • The Speak Truth To Power curriculum offers many powerful stories of courageous defenders and the actions they have taken.  Your students might already be inspired to join in one of these causes.  
  • The Robert Kennedy Education Project highlights Robert Kennedy’s work in civil rights, poverty, and justice and focuses on present-day issues related to each of these areas.
  • Perhaps, however, your students are not yet certain about which issue they’d like to pursue. In that case, here are some resources to help them do just that.

Are your students knowledgeable enough about their selected issue to effectively promote it?

After using the Speak Truth to Power curriculum, your students may be well informed about their chosen issue.

However, if their chosen issue is not addressed within the curriculum, or  you would like to spend more time working with students on researching issues further, the following resources will assist you.

Your students are now ready to take action!

Since there are many ways to address an issue, it’s important to make sure your students are clear about what they want to achieve. Do they want to change a law? Do they want to educate fellow students and community members about the issue?  Do they want to raise money or collect food for an area shelter?  The list of outcomes can be vast, so it will be helpful to challenge your students to:

  • Define their goals and outcomes.
  • Decide who has the power to bring about the change you want to achieve.
  • Select the tactics that will help you reach the person or persons who can bring about the change. Should you write letters? Plan an event?  
  • Develop a timeline and budget.

Some possible projects include:

Measuring Impact

Evaluating your students’ actions and measuring the impact allows them to learn about what works and what does not work, giving them a greater base from which to launch their next campaign. The evaluation process can be as simple as answering a few questions:

  • Did we accomplish our stated goal?
  • If so, what worked?
  • If not, what didn't work?
  • Were there outcomes we did not expect?  For instance, if the goals were to raise money and donate food to a local shelter, did the added attention change other conditions or programs at the shelter?
  • What did I learn by participating in this action?
  • How did this experience contribute to my journey in becoming a human rights defender?

Share Student Work 

If students have created videos to promote their cause, you might want to submit these to Speak Truth To Power’s video contest  and/or to Rock Your World so that they can be posted and shared  with others. Songs can be submitted to the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights/GRAMMY Museum Speak Up Sing Out songwriting contest.