Teachers excited about new human rights resource at their fingertips

Wednesday, October 8, 2014
Teacher Tanya Lemoine works with the Human Rights Toolkit.

As an English, History and Global Issues teacher at River East Collegiate in Winnipeg, Anita Maharaj Kumar has been incorporating human rights teaching into her lessons for years. However, she knows there is more that she and her colleagues can do to address human rights issues – a topic that all teachers across Canada are required to include in their teaching. However, research shows that only one in four teachers has received any formal training in human rights education, and that there is a gap in resources, especially in human rights education designed for elementary students and in French. 

Thanks to a collaboration between the Canadian Teachers’ Federation (CTF) and the new Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR) in Winnipeg, a new resource has been launched that can help teachers with some of the biggest barriers they say they face with teaching human rights: resources on human rights are available, but difficult to find because they are not centrally accessible anywhere or organized in a way that is easy to search. 

The Canadian Human Rights Toolkit is a new central online hub for education resources, free to all K-12 teachers across the country. Teachers can search the toolkit for more than 200 teacher-reviewed resources and tools focusing on human rights, including lesson plans, teacher’s guides, manuals, handbooks, study guides, and more, and filter the results by province, language, grade level, and subject area. The toolkit will be an evolving database of Canadian and international resources, and will grow with the help of user-contributed content to provide teachers with unparalleled access to new ideas and innovative practices being used by teachers all across the country.

Woman standing in front of the Museum
Teacher Anita Maharaj Kumar in front of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

Kumar, who is also a member of the CMHR’s teacher advisory committee, says she knows the resource will be invaluable for her and her colleagues across the province and the country. 

“You can’t teach human rights in a vacuum – it has to be dialogue-based and action-oriented. If we end up discussing an issue during class that I may not be prepared for, if I say ‘Let me get back to you on this’ we would lose the momentum such discussions create. Instead, I can say ‘Let me get some more information about this subject now’. The idea of something right at my fingertips is really exciting,” Maharaj Kumar says.

Before assembling the toolkit, the CTF and CMHR joined forces to survey 2,585 teachers across Canada about what, how, when, why – or why not – they incorporate human rights teachings into the classroom. The results showed a pressing need for more: not just more time, but also more resources and more trust in those resources. 

Tanya Lemoine, who teaches a Grade 5/6 combined class at Winnipeg French Immersion school École Saint-Avila, builds human rights into her classes by emphasizing respect, equality and children’s rights around the world.  But she says the challenge lies in the time it takes to gather those appropriate resources.  

“When teachers have 30 min of prep time and they have to consult five or six different resources to prepare one lesson, you know it won’t get done in that time,” says Lemoine. “To have that go-to spot and access this toolkit and all the resources from a national level that we can use to build a lesson is just going to help make our time so much more efficient. I’m really excited about it.” 

The toolkit is just one of many education resources that the Museum will be offering teachers throughout the year, both online and in person. School programs starting in January 2015 will be curriculum-based, age-appropriate, inclusive, and accessible using a diverse range of exhibits, activities, and methods for exploration. 

A new national hub for education, the Museum has carefully designed material appropriate for all ages.  For example, children in elementary grades will learn about inclusion and human rights with games and stories that will educate and inspire them.

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