There was a powerful moment in 4JR today.

Each week we have a special “Team Time” where students are split up amongst the 4 fourth grade classes with a variety of focuses. This time, we decided to try a provocation for our new unit, an exploration of how Children are a unique part of our society who have special rights. 

The idea was this, all students were given the same responsibility: To create a travel poster for Tanzania, in around 45 minutes. Their rights and resources, however, varied tremendously from room to room.

  • Room 1 had laptops set up with easy-to-use templates, images to drag and drop, lots of adult support, popcorn on every table, and upbeat music. Students had the right to work independently or in groups.
  • Room 2 had simple paper and writing and drawing materials, plus examples of travel posters, and some adult support. Students had the right to work independently or in groups.
  • Room 3 had a range of materials, and students had freedom of grouping, but their time was repeatedly interrupted by (phoney) fire drills, and marches out to the field.
  • The final room, Room 4, had little scraps of paper, broken pencils with no sharpeners, an angry-seeming, authoritarian teacher, no right to sit or talk, no air-conditioning, and the constant threat of being sent to the principal.


Not surprisingly, when students regrouped after 45 minutes to share their posters it was a very emotional moment. Some students were proudly raving about what a good time they’d had, others were near tears with the stress and sense of relative failure in their responsibility. Others were angry about the interruptions that had made it so difficult for them to succeed. We discussed the following questions:

  • How successful do you feel you were in your task?
  • What rights did you have?
  • What resources did you have?
  • How did your rights affect your success?
  • How did your resources affect your success?
  • Did any big events make it difficult for you to be successful?


Finally, we dug into the big idea…

We know that people all around the world all want basic things like home, community, food, health and education. But people have very different rights and resources.

What are some connections between peoples’ rights and resources and their opportunities for success?

Some students took a while to make the conceptual leap, but others made connections. One student, Rediet, in particular observed: “I think we’re all like the people in (Room 1). We have all these things to help us and people who are nice to us. We’re not used to not having enough resources, or to having people take away our rights”.

It felt like a very powerful way to launch our inquiry into these sorts of ideas and it was fascinating to see the conceptual connections that students made.

We’re ready to continue our tuning in to the ideas around the rights of children. I think the animated text video below may be a good tool to move the conversation to the next level…

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