Subjects: Reading and Language Arts, Social Studies, ELL/ESL
Categories: Wealth and poverty; Gender, Race and ethnicity
Speak Truth To Power is a project of the RFK Center for Justice and Human Rights. For this activity, we encourage teachers to take advantage of this lesson from the project. It focuses on the issue of environmental degradation in the Horn of Africa.
- How would you describe the diversity of your school? Based on your existing knowledge, what nations are represented by students on your campus?
- What do you know about the problems and issues those nations face?
- What does it mean to be an “activist?” What examples can you give of people who have made activism a part of their lives?
- What might be the advantages of identifying yourself as an activist? Are there any disadvantages? If so, what are they?
(Note: The following is a description of a sample “Speak Truth To Power” lesson, found on the website of the RFK Center for Justice and Human Rights. You may want to spread the activities over several small sessions. Features of the total curriculum follow.)
Wangari Maathai, Champion of
This lesson tells of the work of Wangari Maathai who, in 2004, became the first African woman to win a Nobel Peace Prize. Through the National Council of Women, Maathai empowered women in Kenya to solve the single greatest problem that was standing between them and healthy, productive living: environmental degradation. They were especially concerned by the devastation of land caused by deforestation and the soil erosion that follows.
Maathai oversaw the planting of more than 20 million trees by Kenyan women. The success of her Green Belt Movement inspired its spread to other African nations. In areas where a seedling can mature to a fruit-bearing tree in five years, the women were able to see an improvement in the quality of their lives and the lives of their children in a relatively short time.
Activities in this lesson motivate students to take positive steps to demonstrate environmental responsibility. They include:
- A link to singer-songwriter Tracy Chapman performing her song “Paper and Ink,” which gives students the basis for a discussion on conserving resources and respecting the planet; and
- A short video of Maathai explaining the “Mottainai Campaign” (from the Japanese, meaning reduce, reuse, recycle), which discourages the use and careless disposal of environmentally harmful plastic bags.
About the Speak Truth To Power
Teachers can access the 17 lesson plans of the Speak Truth To Power program here. They include:
- Activities for two different grade levels—6-8 and 9-12. These can be easily adjusted up or down to suit a more specific grade level;
- Introductions to human rights activists, followed by interviews. Each interview provides students with information about the activist’s work in his or her own words. Teachers can distribute the interviews to students for individual or group reading, or can summarize them for younger students;
- Specific articles from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that are the focus of the unit. These are followed by “Guiding Questions” to highlight the essential content the students will learn. In addition to time requirements and objectives for each lesson, the plans identify the skills students will use. They also provide lists of vocabulary words and concepts students will encounter;
- Links to short, high-interest videos. Some are designed to promote lively discussion. Others provide a variety of teaching strategies; and
- New York State Learning Standards for each of the 17 lessons—listed by content area and grade level.
Around the Web:
Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights
Women Making Change, Women Forging Hope, includes a lesson on Wangari Maathai