ALAN v27n3 - Using the World Wide Web to Teach Human Rights

Volume 27, Number 3
Spring 2000

Using the World Wide Web to Teach Human Rights

Susan Ariew

Human rights issues are volatile because they occur in political contexts, which may or may not be understood by those outside the political situation. In teaching young people about human rights, adults must struggle with presenting information to students in a serious and informative manner and at the same time avoid material that is extremely sensationalist, frightening or disturbing. The process of selecting developmentally appropriate classroom materials in a focused, educational context becomes extremely important. When one searches the unedited, unmoderated environment of the Internet for resources about human rights, the amount of material is staggering, and because information devoted to human rights violations around the world can be so graphic, political, and disturbing, the need to be selective becomes even stronger.

To find age-appropriate, quality Web sites on human rights for classroom teachers and their students, I consulted Classroom Connect , a K-12 Web-reviewing magazine, a book entitled More Virtual Field Trips , as well as gateway curriculum Web sites for children and young adults such as Yahooligans ( ). What follows is a suggested list of Web sites and lesson plans that will serve as starting points for classroom teachers and their students.

Gateway Web Sites

To find excellent, age-appropriate materials on the Web in many subjects, not just the subject of human rights, gateway curriculum Web sites, StudyWeb ( ) and Homework Central ( ) are excellent places to begin. StudyWeb is a commercial Web site developed by American Computer Resources, Inc., which boasts a collection of more than "118,000 quality URLS." Divided up into about thirty academic subjects, the focus is mostly on providing a quality Internet library for middle school users and up. While the site's search engine finds little when "human rights" is selected, the selection of "World Government," and "International Civil Rights" provides excellent, annotated lists for the study of human rights around the world. Over thirty sites are listed at the two locations. Examples of items on the list include the Web site of a Nobel-prize winning human rights organization, Amnesty International, and links to United Nations web sites such as the United Nations High commissioner for Human Rights, which includes the text of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in over 270 languages, treaties, and other primary sources related to human rights. Other links include The International Center Against Censorship; Article 19, an organization named after the article in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; the Center for World Indigenous Studies; Child Labor; and Committee to Protect Journalists. For each Web site listed, an annotation tells users about content, visual material, approximate grade level, and the name of the site reviewer. This assures educators that material has been screened for its educational value and appropriateness. The other nice feature about StudyWeb is that students can click on anything they wish and then never leave the Web site, so that it is not likely that users can stumble onto inappropriate material.

Homework Central, similar to StudyWeb, also provides a quality Internet library of Web sites for educational purposes. Users can "browse" or "search" various topics. A very helpful feature of Homework Central is that users can select their age from a pull-down menu in the search engine, choosing "kids," "teens," or "college and beyond." If one searches "human rights" for "teens," one finds material listed under "International Law" and "International Human Rights." Links to Amnesty International, Human Rights Around the World, as well as primary sources and documents under "Human Rights Treaties" are available. Human Rights Around the World allows users to visit a clickable map, which gives reports about the status of human rights country by country.

Web Sites Related to the Holocaust

There are several excellent Internet sites that supplement the study of the events of the Holocaust, allowing visitors to learn about it and to remember its victims. The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum ( ) offers the museum's extensive collection of materials, including official documents, photographs, magazine covers, identification cards, and newspaper clippings-all primary sources that bring home the Holocaust to viewers at a personal level. The tours feature both the horrors and villains that perpetrated them along with the Christian and Jewish heroes. Current tours include information about the Holocaust in Greece, the 1932 Olympics in Berlin, information about Kristallnacht, the November 1938 Pogroms, the Hidden History of Kovno Ghetto in Lithuania, and the story of Father Jacques, a Carmelite Friar who hid several Jewish boys in his French school in 1937. Under the "education" link, this Web site contains a variety of resources designed for use by teachers, students, and all who want to learn about this history. Organized into nine sections, there are in-depth guidelines for teaching about the Holocaust, a brief history of the Holocaust, answers to five basic questions about the Holocaust, issues of children and the Holocaust, a comprehensive videography, and teaching guides.

Anne Frank's story has become a standard text in many schools' curricula, and there are several Web sites that can be used as sources of information to supplement the reading of The Diary of Anne Frank . Anne Frank Center USA at shows pages from Anne's diary, how they were authenticated and came to be published. Anne's story is revealed through photographs and texts. Unfortunately, the links listed most useful to educators are still under construction. It is hoped they will be added soon. Another Web site, A Virtual Tour of Anne Frank House at takes users on a tour of the house in which Anne Frank, her mother and father, the Van Pels family, and Fritz Pfeiffer spent two years. The site offers excerpts from her diary in her own handwriting. Particularly interesting are the often neglected, rewritten portions of the diary that Anne planned to publish as a book she wanted to call The Secret Annex later on. For teachers there are suggested classroom activities and discussion topics.

Lesson Plans

Activities related to human rights are available at several lesson plan Web sites such as ASKERIC Lesson Plans ( ), Big Sky Lesson Plans gopher:// [This is no longer a valid link] ), and the Columbia Education Center (CEC) Lesson Plans ( ) sites. The "Culture and Acceptance Activity" for grades 7-11 at Big Sky (gopher:// Sky/social_studies/CECsst.175) promotes respect for other cultures. Other activities that tie into Holocaust studies are "An Approach to Teaching Religious Tolerance" ( ), "Civil Rights-Casualties of War Time" ( ), and "Human Needs Assessment-an Introductory Activity to the Holocaust" ( [This is no longer a valid link] ). Other activities that support human rights study are found in a mini-lesson on arrest and the legal system ( ), a mini-lesson on Search and Seizure Laws ( ), and the "Bill of Rights Activity" ( ).

Activist Sites for Young People

The study of human rights need not be an exercise in despair about the human race. Several Web sites emphasize the positive with kids, and offer methods of empowering them to make a difference with regard to human rights, particularly where children are concerned. We Hold These Truths to be Self-Evident (Elementary-Middle School) , a Web Quest Site, challenges students working in groups of three or four, to explore a special population. Participants can choose from Latino culture, African American culture, Gay and Lesbian culture, and issues of physically challenged students. Students are asked to link what they've learned to the principles of democracy and freedom. The Global Fund for Children at offers a Web site devoted to human rights issues and empowering children about their world. The site features resources for educators, books for children, and a journey to Xanadu, a creative and imaginary "perfect place" that features art and ideas for children all over the world. Finally, Free the Children, , is an international Web site focused on children helping children through representation, leadership and action. This organization, run by 9 to 16-year-olds, is "dedicated to the elimination of child labor and the exploitation of children around the world."

The World Wide Web can be an excellent resource for teachers and their students to learn about human rights issues, both past and present. By being selective about the available resources, one can find teaching materials that bring the issues to life through primary documents, vivid multimedia experiences (like the virtual tour of Anne Frank's house), lesson plans, and even sites that allow students to take a positive, activist approach to the topic.

Works Cited by Ariew

Beck, Emily. "Lesson Plan Goldmines." Classroom Connect , 6.1 (1999): 3.

Beck, Emily. Web Gallery , 5.4 (1998-1999): 12.

Carter, Christina E and Davidson, Russ. "Human Rights on the Internet: A Select Bibliography of Web Resources." Reference Services Review , 25 (1997): 51-60.

Cooper, Gail and Cooper, Gary. More Virtual Field Trips . Englewood, CO: Libraries Unlimited, 1999.

"You've Got it Made in the Virtual Shade." Classroom Connect , 4.9 (1998): 8-9.

Reference Citation: Areiw, Susan. (2000) "Using the World Wide Web to Teach Human Rights." The ALAN Review, Volume 27, Number 3, Pages 58-59.