Gaining more perspectives on being human

December 22, 2022

Photograph of Natalia and her 2nd grade class at Cesar Chavez Elementary, December 2022

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

On December 9th Natalia Anciso’s 2nd graders got on stage to read out their first set of poems to an audience of other second graders and family members, followed by enjoying some treats and celebrating their accomplishments.  This occasion marked a milestone in our collaborative project called I Am Me And I Am Part of Us, that Natalia and I, colleagues since 2011, developed.  With this project, elements of TWAICB curriculum complement Ms. Anciso’s Social Emotional Learning and Social Studies teaching objectives to help students learn about respecting others and valuing their own personal stories.  The students are writing poems about who they are as people, and by the end of March 2023 will have considered what it means to be part of a greater community, using creative writing and visual arts to help express their ideas, all of which will be put into a book that the students will receive at their full culminating presentation.

Here is one of the student’s poems, as written in Spanish, along with its English translation:

Photograph of poem in Spanish wiht drawings

I am carnitas tacos
I am the music of the birds singing in Mexico
I am the music of Bad Bunny and Karol G
I am the blue river
I am parks and murals
I am Mexican
I am a dancer
I am an artist
I am loving and beautiful
I am Lindsay

Watching the students, all dressed up for the occasion, be both nervous and shy about speaking into the microphone, and then excited and proud of all of their efforts, as they were hugged by proud family members, I felt that this was an example of the sheer essence of being human – to want to do the work, to feel a part of something bigger, and to be seen, valued and loved.

This same Friday marked the 16th anniversary of our very first presentation The World As It Could Be: A Declaration of Human Rights, that launched the development of our curriculum and all that has followed.  The impetus for this work was the newsletter Perspectives on Being Human that was published while I was ED of the Rex Foundation.  I wanted to help explain why the Rex Foundation made grants to support programs in so many different areas, whether helping the environment, strengthening communities or furthering the arts and education.

Photo of Natalia and Sandy at Cesar Chavez Elementary In these past 16 years I’ve deepened my appreciation for how an understanding of human rights principles as represented by the UDHR and all the treaties and policies the document has helped inspire, can strengthen our personal sense of being human and why this matters in places closest to us – those small places close to home, as articulated so well by Eleanor Roosevelt.  Most recently, when I’ve enjoyed interacting with the Cesar Chavez students to read them stories each week, and I receive their hugs and thank-you’s, I am once again reminded that how we demonstrate and nurture care, respect, dignity and joy for each other is what results in feeling and experiencing the best qualities of being human, that then hopefully generate positive ripples for others.  This simple sounding formula is certainly not easy, challenged by the many complexities presented in our daily lives.  Yet, as you can see via our Video Library, in the expressions of so many of the youth and adults who have learned about the UDHR, the human spirit to seek equality, equity, justice, respect and dignity for all, is strong and thriving.

Thank you for being part of TWAICB over all these 16 years!  We wish you and yours the best of this holiday season and look forward to all that we can do together in 2023.

With appreciation and best regards,

Sandy Sohcot, Director

Featured Resources

Connecting to the themes presented in this newsletter, here are some additional resources.

The World As It Could Be: 4 Questions at a TimeWe are introducing this initiative, The World As It Could Be Four Questions At A Time, as a way to generate connections among allies, as well as continue to connect Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) ideas. With this initiative, representatives of TWAICB would interview leaders of non-profit organizations and/or community entities to collaborate with them to identify their four questions to inspire more thinking about the issues they address, while also connecting these ideas to the UDHR.
Learn more

Mindful Social Studies book coverThis chapter describes one school and community center–based program that uses Social Emotional Learning (SEL) strategies to guide students through a series of human rights–grounded inquiries and exercises, helping them build self-awareness and a commitment to equity and justice for all. The program The World As It Could Be(TWAICB) Human Rights Education Program is a student-centered, inquiry-fueled celebration of the many concrete ways students can stand up for themselves, their peers, their families, and their communities.
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TWAICB has collaborated with Kay Zimmerman, the Arroyo High School Future Academy Co-Lead Teacher since 2011, when she took part in our 3-day Institute to learn about TWAICB curriculum. Since that time, Ms. Zimmerman has utilized the curriculum with junior students in her Developmental Psychology for Adolescents (DPC) class, where, as part of that class, the students learn about the UDHR and then present a Town Hall to their learning community about what they want others to know about the UDHR and its relevance to current issues.

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Screenshot of one of our videosPart III.  Warm-Up, Movement and Theater Exercises to Encourage Group Bonding, Stimulate Creative Energy and Inspire Creative Expression of UDHR Themes.

Choose a stretch, along with a vocal warm-up or movement/theater game exercise to start a class, and include a stretch or movement exercise during a lesson to generate additional energy and focus.

Learn more