Photo of Holocaust, Genocide, and Human Rights Education Project students in the University Hall courtyard.

Human Rights Lesson Plans

For Grades 6-12

All lesson plans were designed by Montclair State 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.

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 119th-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.

Becoming a Better LGBT Ally, by David Pontrella

New Jersey prohibits discrimination against students because of their gender and sexuality, but how can teachers promote understanding for LGBTQ+ students and families? This thoughtful lesson plan defines key terms and offers teachers and students the chance to explore some of the dilemmas faced by LGBTQ youth in schools today. The goal of this lesson is to help educators create more welcoming environments for all. Includes articles and resources for LGBT youth.

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.

Black Lives Matter: Beyond the Hashtag, by Joniesha Hickson

What is the Black Lives Matter Movement, where did it come from, and how is the BLM Movement portrayed in the media? Explore this exciting movement for social justice with your students from the perspective of a black lives matter student activist. Includes video clips and PowerPoint:

Bridging the Gender Wage Gap, by Christine Acquah

There is a significant gender wage gap between men and women, which both reflects and contributes to inequality in the U.S. In this lesson plan students will learn what causes the gender wage gap and New Jersey is doing to fix it. This lesson provides students with powerful examples and suggestions for reform aimed at stopping this acute intergenerational problem. Includes PowerPoint and handout.

Child Labor in Fashion and Technology: How Does It Affect You, and How to Help by Nicholle Bishara

What is child labor in the 21st century? Where does it happen, what impact does it have on children’s welfare, and why is it a human rights issue? This interactive lesson helps students understand the difference between fair and exploitative conditions in youth labor globally. It also considers how societies and corporations benefit from the exploitation of child laborers, and explores how child labor differs from other forms of work. It encourages students to explore the necessary steps to end this cruel practice globally.

Child Marriage: A National Crisis, by Deanna Wilks

What is child marriage? How is child marriage a form of abuse against women? Does it really happen in the U.S.? How often? This lesson presents United States laws that enable the continuation of child marriage and analyzes why child marriage represents a gross violation of basic human rights for girls and women in America today. Hear the stories of child marriage victims and learn what we can do to prevent this practice. See the links below for video clip, PowerPoint and engaging activities.

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.

Colorism, by Makeda Bozeman

It’s time to complicate students’ understanding of racism. In this lesson, participants will examine key questions like: What is colorism? How does skin complexion effect people’s lives? This lesson plan explores the difference between racism and colorism with examples from popular culture including television and magazines. Do darker-skinned people of the same race experience increased discrimination? If so, by whom and why? Can dark complexions be beautiful, according to dominant beauty standards in the U.S.? What can we all do to better understand and resist colorism? Includes PowerPoint, handouts, pictures, and even a nursery rhyme.

Ending Food Insecurity in New Jersey and American, by Heather Francis

Having access to nutritious food is a basic human right, yet in New Jersey and the United States, many citizens are food insecure. Help students understand why access to food is a basic human right, why so many Americans do not have adequate nutritious food, how Americans work to battle hunger, and what more needs to be done to ensure that all families can feed their children nourishing meals. This engaging lesson plan encourages empathy and includes practical suggestions for how students can take an active role in addressing food insecurity in their communities. Includes discussion questions, and powerpoint slideshow with maps and statistics.

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.

A Glimpse into the Black Experience, by Kobe Penn

What does it mean to be black in America? Join us for an engaging and interactive lesson where students explore different aspects of the African American experience including poetry and history. This lesson is designed to highlight the positive aspects of the black experience with an honest consideration of racial discrimination in contemporary America. Learn what a “microaggression” is and how to actively reduce prejudice in everyday life. Includes discussion questions, Langston Hughes poem, microaggression activity and handout.

Freedom of Speech in North Korea, and Propaganda, by Christine Yi

How does the North Korean government use propaganda to “brainwash” citizens and how does this relate to the freedom of speech? Students will explore lack of freedom of speech in North Korea and the relationship between freedom of speech, freedom of the press and the American democracy. See the links below for video clips and PowerPoint.

Human Trafficking in New Jersey, by Casey Smith

Is human trafficking a problem in New Jersey and if so what should be done about it? This lesson presents the issues with trafficking in New Jersey and the warning signs that someone is being trafficked. The students will explore the current laws that are in place for victims of trafficking and consider what additional reforms are needed. See the links below for PowerPoint.

History Denied and Defined: Combatting Holocaust Denial, by Elisabetta Bracer

In a world of increasing anti-Semitism, this essential lesson analyzes what Holocaust Denial is, what alleged “evidence” deniers use to perpetuate their views, and how such “evidence” effects antisemitism globally. This lesson plan takes a deep dive into one of the most consequential dilemmas facing society today, how politics fans the flame of this ancient hatred, and why understanding Holocaust denial is so important both now and in the future. Includes PowerPoint, handouts, articles.

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.

The Long Struggle for Marriage Equality in the United States, by Katie Troisi

Today, we know that marrying the person you love is a fundamental human right. But for most of American history, same-sex couples were denied the right to marry. Explore a vital aspect of the gay civil rights movement by learning about the long struggle for marriage equality in America, and consider some of the challenges that remain for LGBTQ couples and parents today. Includes interactive games and a powerpoint lecture, ready to go!

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.

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.

From Picket Lines to District Lines: School Segregation in New Jersey, by Sara Fisher

This critical lesson permits students to examine the long-running practice of school segregation in New Jersey. This lesson focuses on de facto segregation by race and socioeconomic status and allows students to discover and ponder the adverse effect this has on the state’s minority students, and what could be done to end this terrible phenomenon. Includes PowerPoint, insightful articles, and even an episode of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver on this topic.

Recognizing the Armenian Genocide, by Meghry Tutunjian

The Armenian Genocide, known as the first genocide of the 20th century, was the systematic annihilation of the Christian Armenians of the Ottoman Empire, in present-day Turkey, during World War I. Yet today, only 28 nations recognize this historical event as a “genocide,” and the United States is not one of them. Why not? Why does this matter? What is the best way to memorialize the Armenian Genocide? This informative lesson includes an overview of the history of the Armenian Genocide and the chance to study artwork by a survivor. Includes a well-designed powerpoint lecture, artwork, and multimedia clips of survivor testimony.

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 right, 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.

Religious Intolerance, by Roula Ramadan

What is religious intolerance? What causes it, and how does it affect people of various faiths? This intriguing lesson explores the causes of religious intolerance, how it is manifested, and how it is perpetuated in today’s political climate. The lesson seeks to create an open discussion about religious intolerance and maintains the best solution is to teach students the beautiful history and culture of different faiths. Includes PowerPoint and handouts.

Religious Tolerance in American Public Schools, by Emily Driscoll

What is religious discrimination, who is most susceptible to it, and how can we, as a society, prevent it from happening in our community? Students will learn to acknowledge the positive intentions of the four major religions in the United States, disprove stereotypes, and discuss bullying and preventions. See the links below for video clips and PowerPoint.

Resegregation of American Schools and Its Implications, by Kiarra Dillard

How have schools become resegregated by race and socioeconomic class and why does it matter today? Students will examine the implications of school resegregation and discuss ways in which to make schools more inclusive as part of the agenda to fulfill the promise of American democracy. See the links below for video clips and PowerPoint.

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.

The School-to-Prison Pipeline, by Joseph Scarpa

What is the School-to-Prison Pipeline (STPP) and how can teachers and students work together to stop it? In this active lesson plan, students will learn to identify and challenge the STPP by challenging educational discrimination against students because of their race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexuality, or socioeconomic class. Create safe and welcoming classroom spaces for all students and help students take an active role in halting discrimination.

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 transgender 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.

From Wealth to Poverty: An Inside Look at the Venezuelan Health Care Crisis, by Vanessa Soriano

What is happening in Venezuela politically, and what effect is it having on healthcare for average Venezuelans? This lesson sets out to expose students to this humanitarian crisis underway in Venezuela, the effects this crisis is having on people’s lives, and seeks to help students understand why health care is a human right. Further, this lesson serves as a warning for how individual political aspirations can interfere with people’s access to health care. Includes PowerPoint, articles, and handouts.

“What drives migration from Central America? How can we help?”, by Hanadi Vargas

What is the Central American immigration crisis? Why do Central Americans come to the US seeking asylum, and what happens when they get here? In light of the divisive political reality concerning immigration along the southern border, this lesson tackles the core reasons behind immigration from El Salvador to the United States. Excellent for students and educators alike, the lesson addresses common misconceptions and age-old American stereotypes toward immigration, and also examines how the United States bares some responsibility for this crisis. Includes Power Point, and educational articles.

Understanding and Combating Anti-Semitism in America, by Emily Schwartz

What is anti-Semitism, how does it function in America, and what can we do to combat religious discrimination against Jews and others? This lesson offers a thoughtful introduction to the topic of anti-Semitism and helps students learn to identify and challenge negative stereotypes about Jewish people. Using the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) pyramid of hate, students will learn how stereotypes and prejudice can lead to state-sponsored discrimination, and even, tragically, genocide. Lesson plan includes powerpoint slide show and handouts.

U.S. Juvenile Justice System: From Playgrounds to Prison, by Dominique-Faith Worthington

What leads to juvenile incarceration? How does incarceration differ between adults and youths? This creative lesson studies the many causes, oversights, and outright mistakes that lead to juveniles ending up in detention facilities, which often lead to tragic results upon their release. Students are tasked not only with how to fix this broken system but providing concrete examples of how a better juvenile detention system would actually function. Includes PowerPoint, handouts, and informative activities.