Human Rights—Global Engagement

The event started with a welcome and speeches in the auditorium. Kerry Kennedy, instead of giving a speech, interacted with students, engaging them in questions about human rights. Later, in the library, she and other guests went around talking to our students about their showcased work. It was an incredible opportunity for our students to present to an authentic audience. Everyone could see the effort our students had put forth.

Creating Global Citizens

Today, more than ever, we must prepare our students to be global citizens. As technology helps connect us across the world, our students need to develop a global perspective and understanding so they can contribute meaningfully to society and help find solutions.

The AASL standards make it clear that community connections, both local and global, are important to educating future citizens, as is connecting to real-world events. Both the shared foundations of Include and Engage discuss learners and global learning communities. The Future Ready Librarian Framework also calls on us to develop partnerships across our schools and communities.

In our library we use a variety of ways to connect, bringing in special speakers, video conferencing, or even using virtual reality to bring a more immersive understanding.

Being Part of the Vision

It is important for us to be aware of our district's mission and goals so we can contribute to helping meet them through our library program. In our district, connecting with communities locally and globally to promote peace and understanding comes up high on the list. For a number of years now we have had a district-wide peace walk, concert, and art exhibit to celebrate International Day of Peace and International Non-Violence Day. Our district has also begun installing peace poles to promote peace in our community, and this year we will be celebrating the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. We have also had a number of prominent human rights speakers come to our school.

Speak Truth to Power Human Rights Symposium

Kerry Kennedy came for our Speak Truth to Power Human Rights Symposium last February. Speak Truth to Power (STTP) is a project of the nonprofit organization Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights. This human rights education program engages students and encourages them to take action through the experiences of human rights defenders from around the world

One of our teachers helped write the curriculum and is also the advisor for our Human Relations Club. Teaming up with the club, which promotes the idea that students can make a difference, has provided a way for our library program to contribute and connect our students to real-world issues and empower them with ways they could make an impact locally and globally. Students in the club participate in fundraising activities and community service. The library program supports their initiatives, showing video clips and allowing students from the club to set up a table and interact with students. Students in the club are taught how to utilize the resources in our makerspace to promote awareness of social issues, for example our button maker and video equipment. We also support our teachers by finding resources to enhance the STTP curriculum.

My colleague and I were initially approached about the human rights symposium because a space was needed to host it. Of course, being librarians and natural collaborators we sought to find out more. What role could we play to support the implementation of the STTP curriculum and how could we contribute to making the event a success with our expertise and resources?

Planning for the Symposium

At a planning meeting, we teamed up with others to help make the event a success. Having had experience with other events in the library, I was able to give valuable input. The logistics of fitting three classes into the library to present their work and host guests required some planning. The flexible furniture from our library redesign, facilitated making more space for this special event. We rolled away the shelving on wheels, our collaboration table, and lounge chairs. This is exactly what I had envisioned when selecting mobile furniture. Art boards to showcase student work were added to the corners of the room. Students from the business class created PowerPoints on human rights defenders that they could take turns presenting at our Aquos boards. The English/special education class worked on posters and used our flexible desk area. The social studies human rights class used our back room to present PowerPoints. We also had a special area for the school board, administrators, and dignitaries.

Prior to the event, we had students use the library podium to practice reading poems. We provided feedback on pacing and delivery. We also provided a space for students to create posters and print out presentations. I introduced Flipgrid to the teachers and students and started a Speak Truth to Power Flipgrid, encouraging our students to post videos about what they learned.

Making the Event a Success

As librarians we have the research, technology skills, and resources to help make our school and district events shine. If we don't know something we can connect with someone who does or use problem solving skills to figure out a solution. Now more than ever librarians need marketing and outreach skills. You are the PR person for your library program and have the ability to assist with your school and district PR. Below are some of the ways we were able to help out with the STTP symposium.


Before the event, teachers were first encouraged to attend the professional development on Speak Truth to Power. We helped the Human Relations Club advisor create a Google Classroom for it and we became co-teachers and posted resources there. Our school had recently gone 1:1 with Chromebooks so Google Classroom was new for all of us. We found that by embedding ourselves as co-teachers we could simultaneously assist both teachers and students.

Button Maker

We utilized the button maker from our Innovation Lab to create buttons that were given out to attendees. My co-librarian loves coming up with designs, and I knew that adding the Freeport Schools logo would top it off. Our administrators loved the buttons. It was our first time using the button maker for a school-wide event and have since used it for district-wide events as well. We have now been able to train students to create buttons. I wasn't initially sure about getting a button maker, but it has really been a great tool to use to connect with students, staff, administrators, school board members, and even legislators. We now include "created by FHS Library" on the back of all our buttons, making them a great way to also promote our library.

Video Production

The annual Speak Truth to Power Video Contest is a middle and high school contest where students create and submit a three-to-five minute film on a human rights issue ( This contest provided another opportunity for our students to utilize our Innovation Lab equipment. We have a Padcaster, which turns the iPad into a mobile video production studio students can use to create videos. The contest gives students real world experience in creating a video to educate others on an important human rights issue and an authentic audience.


Another very simple way to participate in school-wide events is by creating banners. Several banners were requested for above the auditorium entrances and inside and outside the library. This is something very visible to administrators that can later help you when you request funding for ink or other resources. We are always looking for ways to show the library program is part of a larger team and support our school administrators. We even got to know our new assistant superintendent better by staying late to help decorate Showcasing how the library supports the district's goals through the resources and skills you have available leaves you in a better position to advocate for your program.

School librarians play a vital role in making resources accessible within and beyond the library walls. We must connect with our district and school community in order to develop relationships and enhance our program. We must also look for ways to connect beyond our local communities, across our nation, and globally.

Further Reading

"Daughter of late Sen. Robert Kennedy visits Freeport H.S."News 12 Long Island.

"Students Become Defenders of Truth." Freeport Public Schools. Accessed Nov.11, 2018.

"Kerry Kennedy Visit." February 10, 2018. Freeport Public Schools video, 40:00.

Luna, Rose. "Speak Truth to Power: A Ripple of Hope." Feb.8, 2018. Freeport Public Schools video, 1:55.

Speak Truth to Power Curriculum

Kerry Kennedy's book Speak Truth to Power: Human Rights Defenders Who Are Changing Our World included interviews with rights defenders. This eventually led to STTP curriculum on human rights issues, and Freeport Public Schools is the first district in Nassau County to implement it. The lessons were developed by teachers, in a partnership including New York State United Teachers. The lessons online are fully developed, providing Common Core Standards, guiding questions, interviews with human rights defenders, vocabulary, videos, and additional resources. It also provides a simplified version of the Declaration of Human Rights. Topics covered include issues such as: genocide, free expression and religion, slavery/trafficking, children's rights, immigration, and bullying. It also provides resources to help make a difference at national and global levels. For more visit and

Reach beyond Your Library Walls


FieldTripZoom provides live virtual field trips via its community of museums, historical sites, zoos and aquariums, and arts organizations. I tell my teachers and students it is like using Skype or Facetime. Our district pays a fee through our Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) for Fieldtrip Zoom and the use of two collaboration "rooms" for video conferencing. We are able to use these rooms to have our high school students connect virtually with our elementary students. For example, on Read across America Day, our high school students read aloud to children at another school in our district. We use FieldTripZoom frequently to connect teachers and students to quality field trips on a variety of topics related to the curriculum. Video conferencing has also allowed our students to connect globally. An English class ended up communicating with students in Nigeria, Africa, because a teacher asked if I could find a video conference that related to the book Things Fall Apart.

New York Times: The Displaced

I decided to try out this virtual reality app from Within and the New York Times with classes in order to help bring greater understanding to human rights issues. We invited classes to come into the library to use VR headsets to view the 360° video about the experiences of refugees from South Sudan, Syria, and Ukraine. We have also used this app using iPads that students can hold and move around to view the video. We learned that some students who were more sensitive to using the VR headset preferred using the iPad. The VR film is.

Global Nomads Group, Pulse Program

Each year Global Nomads Group (GNG) partners with Students Rebuild, a collaborative program of the Bezos Family Foundation, in launching a global challenge inspiring youth to learn about and take action on a chosen global issue. The 2018-2019 theme is "The Ocean Challenge.". The Pulse page asks that you "take action" by registering on Students Rebuild website. This allows you to submit student entries of theme-related artwork in order to raise funds. This is a wonderful way to connect with science, art, and other classes, and is also a great way to connect your makerspace to service learning projects. Through our makerspace, we provided art supplies for the Ocean Challenge Sea Creature entries. Each entry by our registered team was matched with funds for ocean health.

Global Nomads Group, Virtual Reality

Global Nomads Group has also created 360° short films that include detailed lesson plans and other educator resources. These virtual reality videos help give our students a better understanding of real-world events and global issues.

About the Author

Rose Luna, MLS, is a teacher librarian at Freeport High School, NY. She earned her master's in library science from Palmer Graduate Library School, C.W. Post campus of Long Island University and her MS in school administration and supervision at Touro University in Manhattan. Rose also leads a Spanish language book club at Freeport Memorial Library, NY, and is a Google-certified trainer. Follow her on Twitter @rosemluna.

With Margaux DelGuidice Calemmo, she has worked as a contributing editor for the Publishers Weekly Cut To The Core column and was co-author of Make A Big Impact @ Your School Board Meeting. Library Journal recognized as 2013 Movers and Shakers and they were featured on PBS as American Graduate Day Champions.

MLA Citation Luna, Rose M. "Human Rights—Global Engagement." School Library Connection, March 2019,

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Entry ID: 2148463

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