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We Declare

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Lesson from Express Yourself Curriculum


Students will conduct a town hall meeting, create a survey, and interview fellow students regarding violence on campus.  Using the information obtained, students will write a Declaration of Non-violence (or whatever topic your group has selected) which will then be presented to the student body for ratification, then to the administration for possible implementation. 

“Let us all take more responsibility, not only for ourselves and our
families but for our communities and our country.” ~Bill Clinton

Lesson Rationale

Throughout history, people have declared their independence, their rights, and their demands.  These declarations have led to change.  The United States Declaration of Independence delineated our demands for representation, freedom and independence.  It became the guiding principle for our country.  Similar declarations have occurred around the world, having various impacts.  The goal of this lesson is to have students develop their own declaration around a social issue at school, to gather support as well as a vehicle to pursue change.  The topic of violence on campus is modeled here, used to develop this lesson, but any social issue that is relevant to your campus can be used. 

Standards Links

California Health Standard:  Injury Prevention and Safety
    Grade Seven & Eighth:    
1.5.S Explain how violence aggression bullying and harassment affect health and society
    4.3.S Describe ways to manage interpersonal conflicts nonviolently
    Mental, Emotional and Social Health
    1.1.M Explain positive social behaviors
    8.l.M Promote a positive and respectful school environment
    California English/Language Arts Standard
    Seventh-Tenth Grade:
    Writing Application: 2.4 Write persuasive compositions
    Eleventh & Twelfth Grade:
Writing 1.6 Develop presentations by using clear research questions and creative and critical research strategies (eg., field studies, oral history, interviews, experiments, electronic sources)
California History-Social Science Standard:
7.11.6 Discuss how the principles of the Magna Carta were embodied in such documents as the English Bill of Rights and the American Declaration of Independence
8.2.2 Analyze the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution and the success of each in implementing the ideals of the Declaration of Independence
10.2.2 List the principles of the Magna Carta the English Bill of Rights, the American Declaration of Independence, the French Declaration of Rights of Man and the Citizen, and the U.S. Bill of Rights
11.1 Students analyze the significant events in the founding of the nation and its attempt to realize the philosophy of government described in the Declaration of Independence
National History Standards
Grade 5-12: United States History, Era 3, Standard 1B. The student understands the principles articulated in the Declaration of Independence
Grade 5-12: World History, Era 6, Standard 2E. The student understands the significance of the Enlightenment in European and world history
Grade 7-12: World History, Era 7, Standard 1A. The student understands how the French Revolution contributed to transformations in Europe and the world.  


Copies of various “declarations” can be found by searching Large butcher paper Markers


3–4 class periods

Suggested Procedures

1. The pre-meeting:  Brainstorm with students the relevant and pressing social issues that impact their school or community.  Topics could include: violence, racism, lack of health care, lack of jobs.  The outline of this lesson focuses on violence, but any of these topics can be substituted.2.  Town hall:  In your classroom, hold a town hall meeting on violence in the school.  Ask students to respond to questions such as:  reasons for violence, methods to stop the violence, effectiveness of current consequences of violent acts.  Have one student act as the moderator, asking the questions and guiding the discussion.  The teacher will be the expert of sorts, giving any pertinent facts needed to continue the conversation.  This is not telling the students what to do, but an opportunity to give a little background or what the current laws state.  Have two or three students act as scribes during the town hall to record the group’s comments.3.  Summing it up:  Using the notes from the town hall, have students (who will become the interviewers) create a survey regarding violence on campus and possible solutions.  After making numerous copies of the survey, have interviewers take the survey out to clubs and teams on campus.  After the club/team members complete the survey, the interviewer may ask for general comments and/or suggestions.  4.  Creating consensus:  Interviewers compile the data from the survey; this can be done by creating a master tally sheet with each question and possible responses.  Each interviewer records his or her results; the teacher/student adds up the grand total for each response, thus showing the number of students who chose each response and creating a picture of the student body’s opinion.   Once this is complete, the interviewers should be able to identify the student body’s understandings of the reasons for the violence, possible solutions, the student body’s ideas on the consequences of violence, and his/her own view on the topic of violence.5.  Drafting a declaration:  Have students research “declaration” on  The results will pull up declarations such as the American Declaration of Independence, the French Declaration of Rights of Man and the Citizen, and/or The Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  Students use these models as a guide to construct their own “declaration of non-violence”, or whatever their topic may reflect.   6.  Declaring it:  Have students transfer the declaration onto large poster paper, leaving ample room at the bottom for student signatures.  Have each member of the class sign the declaration, then post the declaration at lunch and gather signatures of the student body.  Present the signed document including signatures to the school paper for publication and to the administration for its consideration.  Extension:  Have a member of the administration and a member of the school board come to the class for a discussion of the declaration and its possible implementation. 

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