Human Rights Day Teacher Lesson Plan

The United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10, 1948.

Credit: UN Photo / Used with permission


The Universal Declaration of Human Rights sets out the fundamental rights of all people that must be protected. Everyone is entitled to these rights, regardless of race, color, religion, sex, language, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.

The Human Rights Painting Project 

Art Activist Tom Block began the Human Rights Painting Project in 2002 to raise awareness of human rights issues around the world, as well as to support the work of Amnesty International. Among the goals of that vital group are ensuring fair, prompt trials for political prisoners; abolishing torture and other ill treatment of incarcerated persons; and ending political killings and "disappearances." The Project also seeks freedom for all "prisoners of conscience" — people who have been detained for their political, religious or other beliefs or their national or ethnic origin, color, sex or other status.

Jacqueline Moudeina - Human Rights Painting Project

By: Tom Block

Jacqueline Moudeina has received numerous death threats — unintended consequences of her distinction as one of Chad's most prominent human rights lawyers.

Dalai Lama - Human Rights Painting Project

By: Tom Block

The Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, has been lauded worldwide for his philosophy and practice of peace, non-violence, universal responsibility, and compassion.

General Jose Gallardo

By: Tom Block

He was imprisoned on November 9, 1993 for having proposed a military ombudsman, a human rights defender for both civilians and the military for the improper actions of the Army. Amnesty International considered him a prisoner of conscience.

Gjergj Komnino by Tom Block

By: Tom Block

Gjergj Komnino spent 25 years in an Albanian prison for "anti-Communist crimes" before seeking asylum. Tom Block celebrated him in the Human Rights Painting Project.

Art Discussion Questions and Activities

1. How does Tom Block get the viewer to be sympathetic to his human rights subjects?

2. What kinds of stylistic qualities does Block employ to draw the viewer in?

3. What is an art activist? How does this kind of artist differ from other less politically or socially motivated artists?

4. What other kinds of artworks successfully raise our consciousness for causes? Photographs? Posters? Short animated films?

5. What issues or causes are important to you? Create an original piece of activist artwork to submit to the MY HERO Gallery.


Learning Outcome

By carefully looking at Tom Block’s portraits of Human Rights Prisoners/Victims, we see people who have been tortured or incarcerated or mistreated by the regimes under which they live and work to change. Their faces are expressionistically painted and distorted to draw attention to their inhumane treatment. Block also writes a lengthy explanation about each of his sitters to underline their individual plights. The combination of image and words is powerful in the case of the Human Rights Painting Project.


Learn about human rights through movies - prompts for class discussion follows.

I am a #youngworker

Saba Waheed

I am a #youngworker combines worker experience and research data into a powerful and artistic animated story.

I'll take it from here... Because I'm a Girl

Produced by:Raj Yagnik, Shona Hamilton

One in three girls around the world is denied an education by the daily realities of poverty, conflict or discrimination.

The Office of Missing Children

Produced by:REVEAL
More than 2,600 kids were separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border under President Donald. What happened to those children?


Sandi Bachom
On August 24, 2019, a group of volunteer lawyers from Lawyers For Good Government walked across the border at Matamoros, Mexico to help asylum seekers.

Film Discussion Questions

1. Why are Human Rights important?

2. Who are the heroes in these films, and what makes them heroic?

3. How can filmmaking be a form of activism? 

4. Which of these films impacted you most personally? Why?


Learning Outcome

After viewing these films and having a class discussion, students will have a greater understanding of human rights as a global issue. Students are encouraged to stand up for their rights and the rights of others, both in their community and globally. 


These Four Stories Highlight Heroes Around the World Fighting for Inalienable Rights.


Students read these four stories highlighting heroes around the world fighting for inalienable rights, and then consider the discussion questions and activities.


Linda Sarsour

By: Noor Khalil

Linda Sarsour, from New York, was co-chair of the 2017 and 2019 Women's March, has been involved in organizational efforts Black Lives Matter, and spoke out against the Muslim travel ban.

Shirin Ebadi

By: Chloe McGee

Shirin Ebadi, an Iranian lawyer and former judge, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003 for fighting for the rights of women, children and refugees.

Frank Mugisha

By: H. Doerflein from Madison

Frank Mugisha is a Ugandan LGBT advocate who won the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award.

Chen Guangcheng

By: Soham Pawaskar
Chen Guangcheng, known as the "Barefoot Lawyer," is a blind civil rights activist in rural China, focusing on human rights, women's rights and the rights of the poor.

Story Discussion Questions and Activities

1. Each of these stories highlighted a human rights activist hero. Research current global human rights issues.

2. What is a human rights cause you believe in? Who is making a positive difference? 

3. What can you do? Create an action plan and get others involved.



Use the multimedia resource showcase link to learn more about John Lewis who dedicated his life to advancing human rights and civil liberties.


John Lewis Multimedia Showcase Webpage
Credit: MY HERO


Use the multimedia showcase link below to learn more about Nelson Mandela, South African anti-apartheid revolutionary and human rights activist who served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999. 


Nelson Mandela Multimedia Showcase Link
Credit: MY HERO


From the UN official website: Learn about the women who helped shape the Universal Declaration of Human Rights Using the Link Below


Learn about the Women Who Helped Shape the Universal Declaration of Human Rights Link
Credit: UN


Laura Nietzer

The Human Rights Day lesson plan was created by MY HERO Education Outreach Director Laura Nietzer.

Illustrated Version of the UN Declaration of Human Rights

Illustrations by Yacine Ait Kaci (YAK)

This illustrated edition of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is published by the United Nations in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights illustrated book
Credit: Yacine Ait Kaci (YAK) [UN.org]

Related MY HERO Resource Links

MY HERO Human Rights Day Showcase
Credit: MY HERO
MY HERO International Women Human Rights Defenders Showcase
Credit: MY HERO
Teacher Resource about the UN Declaration of Human Rights


Learn more about Human Rights Day from the United Nations website.

UN Human Rights Day Webiste
Credit: x
Human Rights Watch

Human Rights Campaign is the largest LGBT civil rights advocacy group in the United States. 

Human Rights Campaign

Learn about a New Hero Every Day of the Year: Use the MY HERO Calendar in the Classroom

Students can share their Hero Essays, Films and Art through our Create Program

Outstanding essays submitted to MY HERO will be considered for a certificate/t-shirt prize or be featured on the Story Homepage.

Submit your artwork to be entered in the MY HERO art contest or to be exhibited on our Gallery Homepage.

Students can submit their films for free with a waiver to the MY HERO International Film Festival.


Organizer created on 11/5/2019 1:46:19 PM by Laura Nietzer

Last edited 11/23/2020 12:03:38 PM by Laura Nietzer