Human Rights Lesson Plans

For Grades 6-12

All lesson plans were designed by MSU undergraduate students working as human rights education interns. Each includes a detailed lesson plan and annotated bibliography.

Educators are welcome to download and use the lesson plans in their classes. If you have further questions about reproducing or sharing these lessons, please contact: Dr. Zoë Burkholder burkholderz@montclair.edu  

Achievement Gap in New Jersey, by Christelle Daceus

Introduce students to the achievement gap between white and black students in the United States. This lesson uses data from the South Orange-Maplewood and Montclair school districts to offer students the opportunity to compare and contrast how two diverse local districts work to address racial inequality in public education. Includes powerpoint. 

African Americans in the Media, by Makeba Green

What are some of the ways that American media presents African Americans in a negative light, and how has this changed over time? Explore a range of media including 19th century runaway slave advertisements, Tom and Jerry cartoons, and the HBO hit series Empire. Students will learn how to identify and challenge negative stereotypes about African Americans in popular culture today. Includes links to video clips and archival images.

Black Lives Matter, by Janaya Cooper

What is the Black Lives Matter Movement, where did it come from, and why does it matter today? Explore this exciting movement for social justice with your students from the perspective of a black lives matter student activist. Includes powerpoint and poetry.

Black Lives Matter II, by Quincey Schenck

Who are Black Lives Matter activists, what are they fighting for, and why is social media so important to this movement? Students will learn about the history and development of this social movement and compare it to the black power movement of the late 1960s. Includes video clips, discussion questions, powerpoint, and handout.


Clean Water Rights, by Gabriella Wilson

Recent crises in Flint, Michigan and Standing Rock, North Dakota have brought the question of clean water rights home to the United States. This lesson asks students to consider why clean water is a basic human right and what role the U.S. government can and should play in ensuring clean water for all citizens. Includes video clips, powerpoint, and news articles. 

Gender Wage Gap, by Amanda Fins

What is the gender wage gap and what steps can we take to equalize salaries for men and women? Students will examine the various scholarly interpretations of this phenomenon and define key terms including: feminism, sexism, gender, discrimination, and implicit bias. Includes graphics and powerpoint. 

Islamophobia, by Luca Azzara

What is Islamophobia, how is it perpetuated in American popular culture, and what can students do to fight it? Learn about how harmful stereotypes about Islam can create fear and hostility toward Muslim people. Teach students positive steps to resist and combat negative stereotypes. Includes an introductory lesson on Islam. Includes powerpoint.

LGBTQ, an Introduction, by Erin Webb

What is gender and how is that different from sexuality? Do people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer experience discrimination, and if so, what can we do to help? Guide students through a thoughtful discussion of what schools can do to help protect the civil rights of students, faculty, and families who identify as LGBTQ. Includes links to articles and resources for teaching about LGBTQ equality. 

Mass Incarceration and Racial Justice, by James Clark

Why are African American men incarcerated at higher rates than whites, and what can we do to reverse this trend? Students will explore the history of mass incarceration in the United States dating back to slavery, Jim Crow, and the war on drugs. Video clips and music enliven the discussion. Includes prezi slideshow link. https://prezi.com/j0xitbf05qkb/mass-incarceration/ 

Misperceptions of Hijab, by Renad Suqi

Are Muslim women’s headcoverings a sign of liberation or oppression? Students will learn why some women wear a hijab and why this is considered controversial in some places. Hear directly from Muslim women who struggle to make their voices heard! This lesson is a terrific addition to any contemporary study of Islam. Includes video clips and a powerpoint.

Refugees and Healthcare, by Danielle Tourikian

One way to consider the global refugee crisis is to examine how different countries provide health care, a basic human rights, to refugees. This lesson compares health care for Syrian refugees in Turkey and Canada. Students will learn to weigh the costs and benefits of quarantine versus isolation, and the special considerations for refugee health care including language, culture, and religion. Conclude by examining the U.S. policy toward refugee healthcare. Includes news clips and powerpoint with maps.

Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights in the United States, by Jennifer Rogers

Sexual and reproductive health care for women is considered a basic human right by the United Nations, but it is viewed as controversial in the United States. This lesson presents women’s health care and reproductive rights as a basic human right, and considers the laws and debates over women’s healthcare in the U.S. Great for high school students and women’s history classes.  Includes film suggestions and links to articles. 

Syrian Refugee Crisis, by Nasrin Younus

What is the Syrian refugee crisis, why did it happen, and what can we do about it? Explore these current events with the help of maps and photographs as well as a multimedia news clip of Syrian refugees in New Jersey. Perfect for middle school students. Includes powerpoint and multimedia clips. 

Transgender Bathroom Rights, by Sabrina Chu

What does “transgender” mean and why are people debating trangender bathroom rights? This informative lesson allows students to understand this current topic in gender equality by examining video clips and engaging in critical discussion. Key terms covered include: sex, gender, orientation, transgender, and cisgender. A great introduction for students to a complex subject. Includes powerpoint.