Schoolchildren in Cambodia. Photo: Damnok Toek/Caritas Switzerland

Dignity of the human person


How is dignity upheld?

Teacher introduction

By the end of this unit, students will have explored the idea of God given dignity and worth, what dignity means in everyday life and how we should honour each other’s worth by upholding each other’s rights. They will investigate how to take up God’s invitation to show his love and care for myself and others, as well as reflect on ways to uphold dignity.

Teachers, before you start:

  1. Watch the CST ‘Dignity of the Human Person’ film and familiarise yourself with the pause point and other stopping points listed in this lesson suggestion.
  2. Download the various resources referenced at the bottom of this page (worksheets, slides, etc.) and have them ready to go on your computer/interactive whiteboard.
  3. Familiarise and decide on the use of online or app technologies.

Learn - Focus

Explore the idea of God given dignity and worth.

ALL years

Watch the first section of Caritas Australia’s ‘Dignity of the Human Person’ film (stop at 0:40).

Years 7-8

Display slide 1. The quote in italics is from the film. The other two are key quotes from Scripture and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Discuss with students how these underpin the Catholic Social Teaching principle of Dignity of the Human Person. Do they see any similarities and differences between the different quotes?

Students write a headline for this CST principle that captures the most important aspect that should be remembered.

Years 9-10

Students use the Education for Justice Dignity worksheet and/or the Encyclicals CST app to explore the Scriptural and Church teachings that underpin this CST principle, in order to answer the question:  Why is human dignity such a central principle upon which all the other social principles depend? Using the 3:2:1 method, students identify three important teachings, two ways the Church already addressed the teachings, and one way they/we can do something to support the teachings.

Teacher note: 3:2:1 is a strategy for quickly assessing student attainment of concepts during a lesson. Students capture or summarise their thinking about a main idea by writing down three ideas about one aspect of the concept, two ideas of another related aspect of the concept and one idea of a third aspect.

For example after a class discussion on Jesus, students write down:
three examples of actions of Jesus in his lifetime.

1. ________________________________________________________________________________

2. ________________________________________________________________________________

3. ________________________________________________________________________________

two examples of actions of Christians today.

1. ________________________________________________________________________________

2. ________________________________________________________________________________

one way people in society are affected by the actions of Christians who are modelling the actions of Jesus.
1. ________________________________________________________________________________

ALL years

Introduce the inquiry: As a class we are going to explore what human dignity is, and how this impacts on the way we treat ourselves and others as a result. Display the poster in the classroom so that it is visible throughout the module. You could use the quotes on the poster as extra stimulus material when introducing the inquiry and ‘big question’.

Learn - Explore

Explore what dignity means in everyday life.

ALL years

Watch the second section of Caritas Australia’s ‘Dignity of the Human Person’ film (from 0:40 to end).

Split students into small groups before watching the film. At the ‘pause point’, pause the film and ask the groups to respond, first within the group and then nominate one representative to report back to the class as a whole. Encourage the students to name at least three responses to the question – how would they feel, what would they think, what would be the practical implications.

Display slide 2. Write this question on the board: What does dignity mean in everyday life?

Years 7-8

Using the Caritas ‘connect, extend, challenge’ worksheet, students reflect on how the Brazil case study connects to their previous understanding of human dignity; how the issues raised in the film extended or pushed their thinking in new directions; and what is still challenging or confusing for them to get their minds around – what questions, wonderings or puzzles do they now have? Write these up on a piece of paper that can be left visible throughout the unit, and come back to these questions at the end to see whether they have been answered.

Years 9-10

Explain that Catholic social teaching tells us that our dignity does not come from the work we do, from our social positions, or from what we have, but from the fact that we are all children of God, beloved by our Creator.

In groups, students list challenges and realities present in the world today that pose the most serious threat to human dignity. Encourage them to think about news stories they have read and/or heard about over the last week or two, and to consider the Brazil case study presented in the Caritas film. Examples should be both local and global.

In small groups, students choose one local and one global example (the Brazil case study) and complete the ‘Unfair, Fairer’ worksheet.

Teacher’s note: students complete columns 1 and 2 of the worksheet in their small groups. Students present their findings to the class. As a class, discuss whether the things to make it fairer will still make it so in the future. Students complete the third column following this discussion.

ALL years

As a class, reflect together on the question posed at the beginning of this session: What does dignity mean in everyday life?

Questions for consideration:

  • How does a Christian understanding of dignity impact on one’s self-worth?
  • What does it mean for how we should treat others?
  • Can dignity ever be taken away?
    (Teacher’s note: a person can never be stripped of their dignity, since we all have an inherent dignity because we are made and loved by God – but each person’s dignity must be respected by others. When it is not, their dignity is not being upheld.)
  • Caritas Australia’s strapline is ‘End Poverty. Promote Justice. Uphold dignity.’ Reflecting on the Caritas film, ask students to explain how Caritas and MDF are working to uphold the dignity of favela residents in São Paulo.
  • Extension questions: Why is it important to uphold dignity as well as promote justice and end poverty? What difference do you think this makes to Caritas Australia’s work as opposed to other Non-Government Organisations (NGOs)?

Teacher’s note: This discussion should elicit responses that highlight the fact that respect for each person as created in the image of God and as a reflection of God is expressed through moral behaviour towards oneself and others. This extends to both our local and global neighbours.

Learn - Demonstrate

Explore how we should honour each other’s worth by upholding each other’s rights

Years 7-8

Students thought storm a list of things they need for a good life. Introduce the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights using the Caritas worksheet. Explain the difference between ‘wants’ and ‘needs’. Students split their list of ‘things for a good life’ into these two categories, to see which ones are basic rights, and which are ‘wants’.

Maristely mentions four key outcomes that MDF and Caritas work to achieve: improved access to clean water, installation of electricity and sewerage, and helping favela residents attain land rights so they can no longer be evicted. Discuss why these are basic human needs, and how Caritas and MDF are working in partnership with the favela residents to ensure their rights and dignity are being upheld.

Years 9-10

Split students into small groups or pairs. Direct them to Caritas Australia’s global issues page, giving each group one particular issue to research. Using the Caritas Problems and Solutions Tree, students write their global issue on the tree trunk and research the causes (roots) and the effects (branches) of their issue; they also research how Caritas is working to change the root causes and the positive effect that change is having, on at least one given community.

The groups present back their findings to the class – encourage students to use tools such as Wordle or Haiku Deck to make their presentations engaging and interactive.


Take up God’s invitation to show his love to others – to love and care for myself and others.

Years 7-8

Using the MYST thinking routine (see below), as a class develop an action plan that outlines what actions, attitudes or practices you can all commit to that will promote respect and reverence for the dignity of those you interact with on a daily basis, as well as your global brothers and sisters.

Me: What actions, attitudes or practices will I commit to?
You: What actions, attitudes or practices will we all commit to?
Space: How is/can space in the classroom and our school (be) organised to help facilitate these actions?
Time: How will I give thinking time to consider how we are tracking on our actions? How does this thinking develop over time?

Years 9-10

Refer back to students’ lists of challenges and realities present in the world today that pose the most serious threat to human dignity. Students choose one challenge/reality and create a ‘dignity action plan’ on that issue, using the Caritas ‘Take Action!’ worksheet.


Reflect on ways to uphold dignity – taking up God’s invitation to show his love to others – to love and care for myself and others.

Students complete pages 5-7 of the Caritas CST Reflection Journal.


Students create an interactive journal demonstrating how they have actioned their ‘dignity plan’. Interactive journals can be created using tools such as the Videolicious app

Students should refer to their action plan points in their journalling to evaluate:

  • what has worked well
  • what has been a challenge
  • what they have learnt

They should also include a prayer for action to uphold dignity.