Taking action inside and outside the classroom

HRE encompasses both helping learners to develop attitudes of respect for human rights as well as putting those attitudes into action. HRE equips learners with the skills to recognize human rights violations and to help stop them. When learners participate in service-learning projects such as working in a soup kitchen, planting trees, or visiting a homeless shelter they are observing human rights violations and acting to protect them at the same time. Educating about human rights through service learning:

  • Teaches about human rights while working to protect them.
  • Engages learners in their community.
  • Turns theory into action.
  • Takes human rights out of the classroom and into the real world.
  • Encourages learners to form their own opinions and beliefs and then act on those beliefs.
  • Teaches critical thinking and problem solving.
  • Allows learners to cultivate a sense of shared responsibility.
  • Provides a service that is needed in the community.
  • Empowers students to realize that what they do can truly make a difference. 

Plan a successful service-learning project

Service-learning is a methodology wherein students learn about a specific issue through active participation which engages them in service and reflection through and upon completion. To set up a service-learning project there are three parties that should be involved: 1) the school working to educate students on human rights, 2) the students, and 3) the organization receiving the service. For a service-learning project to be successful it is important to consider the following components:

  1. Engaged Participation – The students are the ones actually providing the service therefore they should be engaged in the process of determining what the service will be. This engagement not only provides students with a sense of empowerment and ownership over the project, but it also provides more opportunity for learning. In addition, the students can be utilized as a resource. 
  2. Partnerships – From the start, build partnerships with community organizations to make the relationship more successful. Community organizations can also be helpful in assessing the need for different projects that you may be considering. This is important because the service provided should address a genuine need in the community.
  3. Integration – Integrate the project with learning objectives. Prior to the project, you will need to determine what the students are going to learn about by engaging in the project. Objectives that are tied to a curriculum or learning standards will help measure learning.
  4. Preparation – Students will need to be prepared for the following: what their role and responsibilities will be; rules and regulations to follow on-site; how their service relates to human rights; any special skills they may need for the project; information about the organization they are working for; what to do in case of an emergency on-site; the agency may also need training on your objectives.
  5. Action – You’ve engaged the students, collaborated with a community partner, integrated learning objectives, and prepared. Now it is time to roll up your sleeves and implement the planned project.
  6. Reflection – Much of the learning in service-learning occurs through reflection during and after the project. Reflection can take many shapes at many different times. However, after the project is finished, it is especially important to engage in a reflection activity because during the project a lot is going on, often too much to assess all of the learning that is taking place.
  7. Evaluation – Together, with your partner organization, evaluate the project. Were expectations from all partners met? If not, what can be done next time to meet those expectations? How well were learning and service objectives met? What impact or results did your activities have on the community? Everything will not always go as planned so expect some lessons learned. These lessons should make the next time around that much better.
  8. Celebration – Don’t forget to celebrate what you’ve accomplished. Thank your partner organizations for opening their arms and working with you. Celebrate with your students so they know that all of their contributions are truly appreciated. Also, celebrate yourself for being an engaging, influential educator!

For further resources and example of service-learning projects, see our Rights Sites News: Service-Learning: Taking Action for Human Rights