By: Robert Sidford

Who creates human rights?

Author: Robert Sidford (adapted from "People Create Human Rights" by Tammy Tkachuk, see

Grade Level: 5-6

Time required: One one-hour period


Students will be able to identify three important human rights and share the merits of each.


paper, pencils, website for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:


(Anticipatory set) Announce to the students that aliens are about to blow up the Earth! Luckily, a spaceship is available to take our entire class and their families to a new planet. There, we will begin a new civilization.

Have students move their desks to one side of the room and sit on the floor&emdash;our new planet&emdash;in front of the whiteboard. Allow students to create a name for their new planet.

(Context) Ask students: "What do we need to do to begin a new civilization? What are our first priorities?" Have students brainstorm ideas. If students struggle, or if more ideas need to be brought out, ask "What are the things we do on Earth that would be important to continue on our new planet?" Continue brainstorming.

(Purpose, Guide Learning) Tell students that "Today, we are going to examine human rights. What do you think we mean when we say 'human rights'?" (Class discussion.) Explain, if necessary, that human rights represent people's views of the way we should treat all human beings&emdash;morally and ethically.

Ask students: "If we are going to do all these things, what kind of rights do you think we all should have?" Have students write down, on a half sheet of paper, three or more rights they would like their new society to have.

(Practice) Ask students to share their ideas and generate a list on the board.

Create a "Declaration of Human Rights on {name of planet}" on the board according to the format of the UN declaration: Article 1, Article 2 …. As students nominate important rights, have them explain why they are important, and why we must have them for our society to run smoothly.

Ask students, "Do you think that people on Earth have done the same thing as we did in creating this declaration?" Inform students that United Nations did exactly the same thing we did when they created the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The teacher should refer to the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and ask questions that prompt students to consider issues they have not thought of. (Class discussion. For each question, ask students if these questions could be seen from different points of view.) For example:

o What should we do if a physically or mentally challenged child is born?

o What should we do if a new spaceship arrives and wants to establish a different religion?

o What should we do for poor people on our planet?

o What should we do if people disagree with the government?

o What should we do if people want to protest against the way we want to run the planet?

o How many children should we allow people to have?

o Should people have a right to their own home?

Begin evaluation experience.


(Independent Practice) Students will write a one-to-two paragraph journal entry based on the question, "Which three human rights do you think are the most important?" Students should identify at least three human rights from the class activity (or other legitimate human rights) and discuss the merits of each.