Lesson Two: Profiles of Human Rights Champions

By: Leah Judd

Leah Judd

Education Collaborator

Leah Judd has a passion for teaching Social Studies.  Working in Sechelt, BC, Leah has been lucky to work with students who embrace inquiry learning and created locker museum displays during the pandemic to share their curated stories with the school community.  Leah shares her enthusiasm for Social Studies as editor of Salon, an online quarterly publication from the Social Studies Educators Network of Canada @ssencressc

Suggested Subject Areas

Social Studies

Grade Level

Adaptable across 8-10


60 minutes

Lesson Outcomes

Students will learn about John Humphrey, the Canadian who drafted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). They will also discuss the terms “champion” and “activist.” They will choose a human rights activist or champion who argued to change, recognize, or defend human rights in Canada in the last 100 years. They will research that person and create a profile for them that includes: a date of significance, a brief biography, events or context of significance, and an image.

Lesson Outline 

Part One: What are the qualities of human rights champions?

Timing: approx. 30 minutes


The original draft of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was authored by a Canadian. Watch the following brief video with students to learn more about John Humphrey.

In a brief conversation, ask students what stood out to them about John Humphrey. What are their key takeaways? Then, write “human rights champion” on the board (or “advocate” or “activist”—whatever feels right for the group—or all of them could be used interchangeably). The teacher can prompt students to describe the qualities of a human rights champion—What are they like? What do they do? What are their characteristics? Do students know any examples of human rights champions? Do they know any examples of such people in Canada? How is John Humphrey an example? The teacher can also find additional examples that might be more locally relevant or more current.

The teacher should guide the class towards creating a shared definition of what makes a human rights champion. If the class needs extra support to arrive at a definition, the teacher could share this description of “activists” from the Council of Europe’s Manual for Human Rights Education for Young People:

“Effective activists possess persistence, creativity, commitment, and often courage, but above all, a belief in human beings and in human rights. They believe that a world where human beings have their human rights respected is a possibility, and they want to make it happen.”

Introducing the Task: Profiles of Human Rights Champions

Explain to students that they are going to undertake a short research project with the goal of creating a profile of a human rights champion in Canada from the last 100 years. After all profiles are created, the class will create a timeline and place their champion along it at a date of significance in that champion’s life and fight for rights. 

The profile could be a solo or partner project, depending on class and the time available to complete the project. This might also depend on whether the teacher wants to assess students (assessment of learning), in which case the project would be solo to ensure authentic evaluation of individual students.

The teacher is welcome to prepare a list of champion names in advance to support students in their choice and/or students can use the resources provided further down this page (under Part Two / Getting Started) to identify who they’d like to profile.

The profiles of human rights champions must be fill one page (8 x 11 or 11 x 14, as per teacher and class preference) and must include:

The teacher can also give the option of creating these by hand and/or digitally.

The students can also use the back of the page or a separate page as a bibliography section to track their sources. The teacher and the class could determine a reasonable range of sources and/or a minimum number of sources based on what is appropriate for their age and stage.

While this lesson series frames this learning experience as a formative (assessment for learning) task, and a suggested final formative assessment is included below, the teacher is welcome to create or co-create a summative (assessment of learning) rubric, and could evaluate elements such as: knowledge of the champion in question, communication and vocabulary, creative thinking, drawing thoughtful connections to the UDHR, etc. This rubric should be shown and/or co-created with students at this stage of the process, before they begin working.

Part Two: Creating Human Rights Champion Profiles

Timing: approx. 30 minutes

Getting Started

Students should first select their champion. This could be from a list the teacher has created in advance and/or students can use the following resources to identify who they’d like to profile.

The teacher should track student names and their chosen human rights champions in a visible location (e.g. on the board) so there is no duplication.

Resources to start researching:

5 Black Canadian Leaders (CBC)

Canadian Civil Rights Trailblazers (Canadian Museum for Human Rights)

Indigenous Trailblazers (Government of Canada)

Indigenous Women Activists in Canada (The Canadian Encyclopedia)

Reformers & Activists (The Canadian Encyclopedia)

Timeline–Human Rights Milestones in Canada (Canadian Human Rights Commission)

Women of Impact in Human Rights (Government of Canada)

Work Time

Students can use the rest of the period to research, take notes, and begin drafting. Remind students to keep track of their sources in a document or on paper.

The next class period will be entirely devoted to working and, for those who finish early, to beginning the class timeline. See Lesson Three in this series for more details.