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

Human Rights University for a Day: A Program for Middle and High School Students

Lesson Plans

Online and Asynchronous | Free

Welcome to the MSU Holocaust, Genocide, and Human Rights Education Project’s Human Rights University for a Day!

Normally we host this program live and in-person at Montclair High School, but this year we are offering it as an online and asynchronous program for everyone!

Educators, parents, and teachers are invited to browse our selection of human rights education lessons and complete whichever ones you like. Adult educators should begin by downloading and reading the lesson plan, which explains how each lesson works, what order students should complete the activities in, and an annotated bibliography with additional information and resources.

These lessons were created by the Spring 2020 MSU Human Rights Education Interns as the culminating project of a semester of research and study into human rights. Each lesson comes with a formal lesson plan for the teacher, either an audio podcast or a PowerPoint slide show with a recorded lecture for students and a written assignment with a text (newspaper, film clip, primary historical source, etc.) for students to complete at home. All of these lessons have been vetted by faculty at MSU and can be easily tailored to meet your needs. Thank you for checking them out, please let us know if you use them and how they worked, and feel free to reach out with any questions or feedback.

Dr. Zoë Burkholder, Professor of Educational Foundations and Director of the Holocaust, Genocide, and Human Rights Education Project.

Human Rights University for a Day Online 2020-2021

DACA: Analyzing the Good, Bad, and Ugly, by Victor Diaz

What is DACA, why is it under attack, and what can we do to support dreamers?  In this engaging lesson, students will learn about the DACA program, the arguments for and against it, and the fallacies about DACA advanced by far-right media. This well-designed lesson includes a podcast by political science major and DACA activist Victor Diaz. Join Victor as he interviews DACA participants and works to educate teens about this important human rights issue. Students will love this lesson!

Global Child Trafficking and Labor, by Vashti Surujdeen

Slavery is abhorrent, illegal, and morally wrong, yet still exists. In this vitally important lesson, students will learn about child trafficking and forced labor, where and why these practices exist, and how Americans can make consumer choices and take direct action to end them. This lesson is delivered through an engaging video produced by MSU student activist and future English teacher Vashti Surujdeen. Students will have the opportunity to read and respond to an article about a 12-year old Bangladeshi girl named Bithi who spends her days toiling to sew fashion jeans sold in popular stores in the U.S. This is a great one for students interested in human rights, child labor, and the fashion industry.

Students with Disabilities: Socialization & School Friendships, by Allison Van Etten

What are disability rights, and how does this movement apply to youth in K-12 schools?  In this lesson, students will learn about the struggle for disability rights, relevant laws, and how to support students with disabilities in their own classrooms and communities. MSU English major Allison Van Etten, who is legally blind, helps students develop empathy and understanding for differently-abled peers, and most importantly, offers some clear suggestions on how to help. A highly recommend lesson plan that includes an excellent podcast and a chance to watch and respond to a short, animated film about a disabled student named Ian.

The Color of Pollution: Environmental Racism in America, by Alexis Haroun

What is environmental racism, how does it work in the U.S., and what can students do to learn more and support communities of color devastated by environmental toxins?  This lesson plan by MSU human rights education intern and environmental activist Alexis Haroun explores recent case studies from Flint Michigan, the Gulf Coast, and the Dakota Access Pipeline. Includes an interactive powerpoint lesson plan with embedded links to high-quality film clips. A fun and engaging lesson for students interested in the connection between environmental and racial justice.

The Foster Care to Prison Pipeline, by Abigail Levine

Although hundreds of children are currently in the foster care system in New Jersey, most of us know very little about it or how and why it limits foster children’s future life chances. Jurisprudence, Law, and Society and Political Science double-major Abby Levine offers a compassionate introduction for middle and high school students to the foster care system and the challenges it presents to young people in our communities. This slide show asks students to complete activities along the way, including reading and responding to texts. Her goal is to explain what scholars call the “foster care to prison pipeline,” or the unacceptably high number of youth who find themselves incarcerated due to lack of quality education, stable home lives, and equal life opportunities. Abby helps young people learn about this issue and take action in their schools and communities to end it.

Transgender Identity and Discrimination: How to Be an Ally, by Jos Hinojosa

This lesson helps students gain a deeper understanding of what it means to be transgender and how trans people experience specific kinds of gender-based discrimination. Taught by Child Advocacy and Policy superstar Jos Jonojosa, this lesson includes a professional-quality PowerPoint explaining key terms and complex topics in a straightforward and unbiased way. Jos speaks to students who want to be vocal allies for their trans friends and family. They offer students the chance to read and reflect on a poem entitled, “Who Are We Really When We Are Shut Out of the World?”

Turmoil in Thailand, by Gabriel Harris

How does political corruption erode basic human rights including freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and freedom of religion? Anthropology major and Montclair High School graduate Gabriel Harris offers students the chance to study political corruption in contemporary Thailand through a fascinating podcast he produced and recorded, as well as links to related YouTube videos. This is a great lesson for students studying world history, human rights, political freedoms, or current events.

Understanding the Burqa: Should it be Banned, by Fathia Balgahoom

What is a burqa? Why have some countries banned it? Is this something that advances or harms Muslim women’s rights? MSU History major, future social studies teacher, and student activist Fathia Balgahoom makes these questions come alive and helps students understand the arguments for and against burqa-bans. She includes a thoughtful introduction and overview of Muslim religion, women’s rights in Islamic communities, and why she thinks the burqa ban is problematic as a Muslim woman. Don’t miss this outstanding lesson!