Declaration of Classroom Rights

Leo Bickelhaupt, St. Paul Open School


Students will review the distinction between rights, privileges, and responsibilities, and apply the concept of human rights to their daily lives.


Students should be told that they will be working in groups to form a hypothetical list of ten rules that could be used to protect the rights of students in the state of Minnesota, just as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) protects the rights of citizens all over the world and the Bill of Rights protects people living in the United States (students should have been introduced to the UDHR and/or the Bill of Rights before beginning this activity). It would be useful to review the definition of a "right" to make sure that students donít write a list of "privileges" they would like to have. The object is to create a reasonable list of ten basic rights that students and teachers could look to as a resource in the case of classroom disputes.


Day 1

I. In groups of two or three, students should first brainstorm a list of at least 15 rights that they think are reasonable and important for students in the classroom.

II. As a group, the students should review their lists, and try to pick out the 10 most important ones. In the review process, students should make sure that what they have written down is worded in such a way that it comes across as rights and not privileges (a right should protect an individual, while not necessarily entitling that individual to anything). The group should try to come up with a working, legible copy of their 10-point document.

Day 2

I. Students should convene with one other group and offer feedback on their classroom rights document. Which of the rights seem most reasonable and/or important? Which ones seem unimportant or have wording problems?

II. After the feedback session, groups should consider any final changes they might want to make to their documents.

III. Once they have settled on a final version, the teacher should direct the groups to consider the responsibilities that go hand in hand with each right. It is helpful to model this by asking a few students to offer a sample right and have the class come up with a responsibility that would accompany that right as a group. Once the class seems to understand the concept, each group should compliment their original 10-point document with a list of ten responsibilities which they should hand in as a final product.


It would be useful to follow up this activity with a discussion of the relationship between rights and responsibilities as well as the potential advantages of having an agreed upon written document to settle disputes.

Leo Bickelhaupt teaches middle school at St. Paul Open and was a Partners Program summer teacher fellow in 1996.

Simulation Using Fire in the Forest - A Role Play

Grand Rapids Middle School, Grade 6
Karen Lyngdal Nelson, Teacher
Arlie Fundaun, Attorney
Kit Arnquist, Community Representative


Students will express their views on an important or controversial issue. Students will examine human rights from several points of view. Students will attempt to develop alternative courses of action.

Time: 2-3 class periods.

Resource: "Fire in the Forest"-- A Critical Issue Role Play/Simulation, Moorhead-Kennedy Institute, American Forum, 45 John St., #1200, New York, NY 10038 phone: (212) 732-8606


This role play/simulation is set in the Amazon rain forest in a hypothetical region called Amazonia. The area is inhabited by indigenous people called the Aka-Hipa. The current trend of the Amazonian government is to relocate other groups of farmers and miners to the Aka-Hipa land to further the way for development. There is controversy over the relocation. The settler group feels very powerless in the first place because they are already being moved around by the government. Historically, the government has not been concerned about rain forest preservation, and this has caused a problem for the indigenous people. In a nutshell, the Aka-Hipa and the settlers are in conflict, and now the government is getting involved because of the influence of an American "Greenpeace" type of group, which has money available if steps are taken towards the preservation of the forest.


Assign students to a role in one of four groups: Aka-Hipa, Settlers, Rescue Group, or the Amazonian Government. There are ample roles to fill in the role play. One excellent way to make this issue relevant to the lives your Minnesota community would be to ask adult community members to participate in the role play. Some possible adults could include administrators, school board members, parents, community leaders, etc.


The main follow-up activity for this lesson is class discussion. The students will need to debrief either orally or in a written context in order to put closure on the simulation, especially if no consensus was reached. Some possible debriefing questions include:

What were the major views presented in this simulation?
How good were we at listening to opposing points of view?
Was it difficult to come up with alternative courses of action?
Is it reality that there are times when consensus won't be reached?
What happens now?
What kinds of human rights violations take place in situations like this?
How did it feel to play a role?
How did it feel to play a role that you may have been opposed to?

Another possibility for follow-up is to have students write the rest of the story based on the actions of their group. The students could also find other examples in history or current events, which parallel the situation in the rain forest.

The Great Court Quiz Bowl

Expo Elementary, Grades 4-6
Elective Courts Class
Karen Randall, Teacher
Michelle Garnett, Community Representative David Sips, Attorney
Lesson created by Wendy Casra

Age Level: K-4, 5-8, 9-12: Each level may need to have some adaptions of the lesson.

Objectives:Students will:

Learn vocabulary about the court to prepare for mock trial.

Develop basic research skills.

Work together in groups and deal with competitive situations in the workplace.

Time: Six class periods.


1.List of terms: writ of habeaus corpus, prosecutor, defense attorney, witness, judge, jury, plaintiff, hearsay, appeal, indictment, small claims court, beyond reasonable doubt, contempt of court, acquit, hung jury, due process, felony, misdemeanor, bailiff, closing argument, objections, sustain or over-rule objections, civil trial or civil court, criminal trial or criminal court, opening statement, testimony, direct examination, cross examination, grand jury, petit jury, arraignment, mistrial verdict, defendant, Bill of Rights, Constitution, plead guilty, innocent until proven guilty, court reporter.

2.Research Source with vocabulary words, i.e. xeroxed articles, encyclopedias, dictionaries, government resource books.

3.Index cards and file boxes.

4.Printed numbers to keep score or chalkboard and chalk.

5.List of questions about the terms. Ex. What are the answers a witness gives to the questions a lawyer asks called? (list of sample questions available from the Partners Project)


1.Choose 30 terms that the students will define and prepare the research source(s) students will use.

2.Divide students into teams of three. Students will choose a name for their team and label their team box of index cards.

3.Over a couple of class periods, the students research the terms using the research source, encyclopedias and other materials. The students will write a definition for each term on a separate index card. The teams will place the index cards into the file box.

4.Review the definitions with the students.

5.Explain the rules of the quiz bowl game before the day of the quiz bowl.


a.There will be three rounds. Each round will last fifteen minutes. Each team will have exactly 30 seconds to answer the question. The answer must be completely correct.

b.First round: All teams (i.e.. eight teams) will compete and may use their index cards in the first round. At the end of the first round, the four teams with the most points will advance to the second round.

c.Second round: The teams may use their index cards. At the end of the round, the two teams with the most points will advance to the third round.

d.Third round: The students must answer the questions from memory. At the end of the round, the team with the most points wins.

Body: The Great Court Quiz Bowl

1.Elect one person to keep score.
2.Review the above quiz bowl instructions.
3.Conduct the quiz bowl, recycling the questions from each round.


1.Discuss with students how they felt and what they learned about the role of each person from the court vocabulary.

2.Discuss the role of attorneys and how to win and lose gracefully.

Evaluation: How well students participate in team work, quiz bowl, and class discussion.

The Rights of Refugee Children

Jennifer Prestholdt, 1994 Partners Project Fellow

Age Level: Grades 5-8

Time: 3-4 class periods.


This lesson plan is designed to educate middle-schoolers about the plight of refugee children. Refugee children constitute approximately half of the world's refugee population. Unaccompanied refugee minors make up five to eight percent of the world's refugee population. This lesson can be used as part of a larger unit on refugee rights.


Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Refugee Convention, Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Diary of Anne Frank. Anne was a refugee who was hiding form the Nazis in the Netherlands during WWII. Many Jewish refugees died because other countries (including the U.S) refused to accept them.

Additional Resources:

The Building Immigrant Awareness and Support (BIAS) Project of Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights has posters of refugee children by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) as well as posters of the art by refugee children. They also have annotated bibliographies of youth and adult readings. An additional resource is the BIAS Speakers Bureau at (612) 341-3302.

The Resource Center of the Americas has youth curriculum material on refugee-producing countries.

The Human Rights Documentation Center at the University of Minnesota has material about human rights abuses in refugee-producing countries. The Human Rights Education Library has additional curriculum materials available for check out.


Students read The Diary of Anne Frank.


Q: What is a refugee?

See Article 1 of the Refugee Convention (Definition of a Refugee: a person outside of their country of origin and unable to return due to a well-founded fear of persecution on the basis of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.) Discuss why person might be forced to become a refugee.

Q: What rights does a refugee child have?

See Article 22 of the Convention of Rights of the Child, the Refugee Convention and Article 14 of the Universal Declaration. (The most important right is the right not to be returned to a place where one fears persecution.)

Q: What would it feel like if you had to leave your country?

Q: What would it feel like to be separated from your parents, your family, your friends?

Q: How do you think refugee children find their parents again? Discuss how the UNHCR Project ReUNite in the former Yugoslavia and the International Committee of the Red Cross have programs to help parents find their children again.

Q: What would it be like to be a refugee?

Talk about life in a refugee camp with no opportunity to go to school and inadequate food and water.

Q: Do you know any refugees?

If there are kids in the class that came to this country as refugees, ask them beforehand if they would like to talk about their experiences.


Discuss the Diary of Anne Frank. Why is it important for the rights of refugees to be protected?


Students do the following activity:

Your mom wrote an editorial criticizing government corruption, and now the police want to throw her in jail. You have to leave home immediately - and maybe forever. You can only take five things with you, and you must carry them yourself. What do you take? Discuss their choices.