Persell Middle School 5th Graders Hear About Human Rights from Robert H. Jackson President/CEO

“I usually speak to attorneys and college students so it is really wonderful for me to be here today and talk to you about human rights,” said Jim Johnson, President & CEO of the Robert H. Jackson Center (RHJC). “What do we mean by human rights?”

“You all know that in English Language Arts we are reading and learning about human rights,” said Persell Middle School fifth grade teachers Mindy Trapani. “Take a moment and talk with your partner about how you would define human rights?”

The Persell students talked amongst themselves and then discussed their answers with Mr. Johnson who visited the students as part of the Center’s community outreach program to give them firsthand knowledge of human rights violations across the world. He also enlightened students to Robert H. Jackson’s accomplishments and reminded them that the Robert H. Jackson Center is right in their hometown. As an international prosecutor for the Special Court of Sierra Leone before joining the Robert H. Jackson Center, Mr. Johnson’s unique experience and knowledge about international humanitarian law and his firsthand experiences prosecuting people that violated human rights helped students connect to what they are learning in the classroom.

Persell Middle School fifth graders have been reading and analyzing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) as part of the 5th grade ELA module. After gaining a thorough understanding of the UDHR, students read firsthand accounts of human rights from Nepal and Kosovo. They were asked to identify evidence of human rights that were challenged and to connect each violation to a specific article of the UDHR. A few of the challenges that students read about included a lack of a free education and a safe place to live.

“One goal of Persell Middle School is to involve the surrounding community as much as possible. I remembered that the Robert H. Jackson Center addressed violations of human rights during the Holocaust, so I contacted them to see if anyone was available to speak to our fifth grade students about challenges people are currently facing around the world,” said Mrs. Trapani. “Mr. Johnson presented a slide show of pictures he had taken in Sierra Leone depicting several human rights challenges. These directly connected to human rights in Nepal and Kosovo that students read about in ELA class. He showed pictures of children forced to fight wars and the awful poverty people faced on a daily basis. These included images of children that could not afford to pay for an education and the required school uniforms. The pictures of the primitive school buildings and the great distances that students had to walk to reach these schools, helped students understand the vast difference between education in the United States and Sierra Leone. This also helped students realize how lucky they are to live in a country that provides a free and equal education to all children. These examples connect what they are learning about in the classroom to real world problems that millions of people around the world are facing every day.”

The students also received valuable information from Mr. Johnson’s presentation.

“His presentation gave examples of human rights, which inspired people to help stop human rights violations,” said Persell Middle School fifth grader Blake Scott.

Persell Middle School teachers would like to thank Mr. Johnson for volunteering his time to speak to their students. Through his presentation, students were able to see and hear an account that would not be available to them through a textbook. 

posted on 11/18/2014 - filed under: Academics, Community, Middle School, Spotlight, Students, teachers