Students Stand Up, Speak Out Through Rights Unit

This semester, our integrated unit of study is “Rights.” In this unit, all of our core subject areas explore questions like “What are our rights?” and “How can we be human rights defenders?” In Ms. Katie’s Social Studies class, this involves studying the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the founding document for international human rights law that declares that “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” We have also learned about human rights defenders, like Malala and her fight for girls’ right to education. 

Based on this foundation, the next step we are taking with students is to ask ourselves, “Now that we know our rights, what can we do?” This lesson we learn from Malala: We learn it is our responsibility to read, write, and speak out.

Picture of pages 4 and 5 from Malala: Warrior with Words by Karen Leggett Abouraya

In Ms. Anne’s English Language Arts class, we are discussing the idea of words changing the world Starting from, ”What is the difference between a fact and an opinion?”, we are moving to, ”How can we support our ideas with facts?”, and “How can we use personal experience to support the validity of our ideas?” Students are writing opinion essays on topics they are passionate about, from ending pollution and global warming to dismantling racism. Other topical arguments from students include “school should be in person” and “everyone should wear a mask.” My personal favorite title is, Everyone should be able to speak out regardless of who they are.

Our students got the message loud and clear: we need to speak out about our rights. Not only that, but we all have the right to an opinion, and our voices should be heard. As one student says, “People should have freedom to speak out. You can help change the world for the better.”

I am so proud of our students. During this tumultuous year, our students have embraced the opportunity to find and hone their voices. 

And of course, in true GVP fashion, we have explored together how another way we can speak out is through song. Our intermediate class recently wrote a song about Malala’s life. It is truly thoughtful, touching on themes from throughout the unit and our anchor text. The last verse is one of my favorites:

Malala wants to be a leader.
Malala wants freedom of thought!
Malala stands up for the rights of all girls
She speaks out for the rights of everyone!

Listen to the whole song, and more about our Rights unit, at our Last Day of School Virtual Celebration on May 26th!

Featured photo is from the March 2019 Rights Authors' Tea.