If you hang around the building long enough, eventually you are sure to overhear talk about something called “Model UN.” If you are a parent of younger Village School children, you might be wondering what you are missing. Read on.
The Montessori Model United Nations Program was created by Montessori teacher Judith Cunningham in collaboration with UN Ambassador Francis Lorenzo (from the Dominican Republic) to support the convictions of Dr. Maria Montessori that peace was an integral value of Montessori education and that children could be global citizens by taking part in social action projects. It was created to be a simulation of an actual UN General Assembly, including committees made up of students acting as delegates.
Each school selects a country other than its own to represent. Students spend months researching the history, culture and political situation of that country and the problems it faces so that they can act on behalf of that country’s interests. They write position papers, learn to caucus and negotiate with student delegates representing other countries, and present their proposals in front of all of the participants in the actual chambers of the UN General Assembly. Coming from a totally different perspective than the adults that normally hold these positions, students at Model UN often come up with creative resolutions to world problems that have never been considered before. Those outstanding proposals are forwarded to the real UN Secretary –General.
The first Montessori Model UN was held in March of 2007 to correspond with 100 years of Montessori education. In attendance were 1600 students, teachers and parents representing Montessori schools from around the world, creating a truly international experience for all. In addition to these annual meetings held at the UN in New York City, there have also been European MMUN meetings as well as regional meetings. Conference workshops are held in a NY hotel and the closing ceremony takes place at the United Nations building. Though there are Model UN programs in other schools, what sets Montessori Model UN apart is that the value is placed on cooperation instead of competition.
The Village School began taking part in the MMUN in 2008. Countries represented in the past include Cuba, Canada, China, South Africa, the UK, Greece and Pakistan. This Wednesday, April 2, 2014, twenty-five students from our Middle School classes will travel to NYC to represent Japan and Costa Rica. They will participate in ten different committees and research nineteen different issues ranging from climate change to human rights to national security.
I sat down with 3 of these students to ask them about their experience with MMUN.
ME: So in your own words, what IS model UN all about?
STUDENT: It’s a way for students to learn about world problems…many of which might not be covered by the media. We get to create proposals for how to solve problems and learn how UN policies work.
ME: How old do you have to be to part of Model UN at The Village School?
STUDENT: I think it started with 8th graders only but now anyone in Middle School can join.
ME: How often do you meet during the year to prepare?
STUDENT: We meet every Tuesday after school and sometimes during recess too.
ME: What do you do in your meetings?
STUDENT: We do research on our countries. We use the internet and sometimes magazines to write papers that we will use for our speeches.
ME: What countries is The Village School Representing this year?
STUDENT: Japan and Costa Rica. Last year we did the UK and Greece.
ME: And what issues or problems are you trying to solve?
STUDENT: Well, there are a bunch of committees each with 2-3 representatives from the Village School and then some representatives from other schools at the Model UN. Usually each committee works on 2 topics, like children’s rights, child abuse, sexual assault, women’s rights, child soldiers, or the Eurozone debt crisis.
ME: Is there anything else you do to prepare?
Student: We also have to make posters to show the countries we are representing. It’s fun to look at things that other schools construct to represent their countries. Some of them are 3D or just really elaborate. We also work on proposals for NGO committees.
ME: What’s an NGO committee?
STUDENT: Non-governmental Organizations. There are something like 8-15 NGOs that help specific causes like helping farmers in Malawi.
ME: Is there anything else you would like people to know about Model UN?
STUDENT: We have to learn the formal way to address the assembly like the real delegates do but it’s really neat to be able to be in the actual UN room and give your speech. Everyone gets $5 in fake money to bid on their favorite (NGO) proposal and the winning one gets sent to the actual UN.
STUDENT: It’s also really fun to meet kids from other schools around the world. You get to exchange email addresses and stay in touch with them after. Staying in the hotel with a roommate from your class is fun and you get to know them better.
STUDENT: It’s also really neat to watch the presentation where everyone gets to talk about their native country and afterwards hand out little items made in their home country to everyone.
No wonder everyone is talking about Model UN! It seems to be an amazing and unique experience for our students – one that aligns perfectly with the Montessori value of peace and showcases the public speaking skills Village School students work on throughout their time here. It brings Montessori students from around the world together to work on creative solutions to real world problems. The United Nations was formed to foster international cooperation in economic/social affairs, develop means for humanitarian assistance, and promote global peacekeeping/security. Educated in a method built on empathy, tolerance, and respect for all people, Montessori students were made for this work.
“An education capable of saving humanity is no small undertaking; it involves the spiritual development of man, the enhancement of his value as an individual, and the preparation of young people to understand the times in which they live.” – From Education and Peace
Dr. Maria Montessori would be so proud.
Try It. You’ll Like it.
On Wednesday, February 26th the Parent Association sponsored an assembly to promote healthy eating habits in our children. Health Barn USA, an organization which is based out of Abma’s Farm in Wyckoff, brought a program to The Village School called “Try It, You’ll Like It” which aimed to teach children about healthy foods – how they are grown, how they are prepared and most importantly how they taste! The presentation was given by Stacey Antine, a registered dietitian who founded Health Barn USA in response to the numerous lifestyle diseases (obesity, heart disease, diabetes, etc.) she began to see many children facing in today’s processed food driven world. The Assembly was done in two parts. The first was a presentation given by Stacey on what healthy living means, based on the USDA’s “My Plate” campaign along with the need to move your body every day. Stacey emphasized the body needs both real food AND exercise in order to be truly healthy. Next, volunteers were chosen from the audience to be “expert taste testers” in the 4 different food groups – Fruits, Vegetables, Dairy, and Grains. The only rules to being chosen were that you had to chew and swallow each food you were given and then give a thumbs up or thumbs down to indicate your opinion on the food. The words “ew, yuck and gross” were not allowed. After the presentation was complete, all students were invited to visit stations and encouraged to become expert taste testers themselves. All food was provided by Whole Foods and served either raw or in as close to its natural form as possible. Students from Toddler to Middle School enjoyed the assembly and trying new flavors. Health Barn offers family events, classes and camps in addition to its school assemblies and all are based on teaching children about “real food.”
Slippers for Seuss
Though our students don slippers in the classroom on a daily basis, on the first Monday in March they are encouraged to complete the bedtime look. This seemingly odd tradition is actually one that our students look forward to each year as they celebrate National Read Across America Day and pay tribute to one of the most renowned children’s authors of all time, Theodor Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss whose birthday falls on March 2nd. Throughout the day students clad in pajamas read many Seuss classics and enjoy related activities, but the highlight of the day is a special visit from School Director, Marilyn Larkin who does a special reading of a chosen Seuss book. This year the students were treated to hearing either “Green Eggs and Ham” or “The Cat in the Hat Comes Back” as they clutched their stuffed toys and listened to the funny antics of the famous cat either in the gym or in their classrooms.
100 days and counting
After being pushed back day by day due to the snowy weather this winter, the much anticipated 100th day of school arrived for our students on Tuesday, March 4th. Though the elementary classes typically mark the day with a special project (this year they made their own constellations with 100 stars), the 100th day is really a big deal in our kindergarten program. If you ever happen to be in the school on this day, you will notice that what stands out is the amount of cards with numbers on them scattered randomly throughout the school. A hundred cards to be exact. Our kindergarteners, who have been keeping track of the days during the year, travel around the school looking very official with clipboards as they mark off each number they spot in a school-wide game of I-spy that culminates with finding the number 100 in director Marilyn Larkin’s office.
A Spotlight on Upper Elementary
Coming of age stories are all about children growing into adulthood by finding out who they are and venturing out into the world. In a sense, it’s like learning to use a camera – turn the lens clockwise and zoom in close to focus on yourself – turn the lens counter clockwise and pull back to see the world around you. Here at The Village School, our Upper Elementary students are beginning to construct their own coming of age stories. In the past weeks, they have been doing activities that encourage both personal and global exploration as they learn to use their inner zoom lens.
What’s Your Sentence?
Before the break, some of our Upper Elementary students had the opportunity to reflect on themselves and come up with one simple sentence that encapsulates who they think they are. As part of a writing lesson, students learned about Daniel Pink, a best-selling author who realized that people are driven by three key things: autonomy, mastery and purpose. Pink realized that what motivates a person is not external reward, but the desire to direct one’s own life. He devised a process to encourage people to reduce their life goals into one simple sentence in order to focus that motivation.
By answering five questions and then marking the key words from each response, students constructed sentences that describe their life goals. Because this is also the image they hope to project out into the world for others to see, the sentences are written in third person making them even more profound when read aloud. Our students went through many revisions before being able to summarize their lives in a single idea and then decoratively transcribed the final version of their sentences onto a sign to hold as they orally presented them to the class. The results were astoundingly accurate descriptions of the students according to their teachers who captured the presentations on video. Check out our self-aware students here…
If our students have inspired you and you would like to make your own sentence, start by answering the following:
- What are you good at?
- What brings you joy
- What about yourself are you most proud of?
- What are your goals?
- Who would you like to be in the future?
Now take a highlighter and mark the key words from each response. Use these words to help you construct your sentence. Don’t forget to put it in past tense and third person. It’s harder than it sounds!
For more information on Daniel Pink and this idea, click on the link below to watch his video.
Daniel Pink – from his book Drive
After zooming in to discover a little more about who they are, the Upper Elementary students zoomed out and took a trip around the world to learn more about life on the global scale.
This International Museum program gives our 4th, 5th and 6th year students a chance to present information about the seven continents of the world to the rest of the classes in the school. Each year a new topic is chosen and students break into groups to do research, write speeches and create visual aids for their presentations. This year students focused on animals of the world, creating power point presentations to accompany their speeches. Throughout the day, each of the seven groups presented their research multiple times, tailoring it to suit their audience members from Toddler to Middle School.
Toddlers, Lower Elementary and Middle School classes were visited by the student presenters in their classroom while Primary and Kindergarten classes took fieldtrips to the top floor to attend the presentation that corresponded to the continent they are working on in their classrooms this year.
Presenters did a great job of using extra hand motions and descriptions of the animals as they described the habitats, physical characteristics and eating habits to the preschool age children while giving a bit more formal presentation to the Elementary and Middle School classes. All audiences were attentive and asked a lot of thought provoking questions which the presenters knowledgeably answered in turn.
These activities are only a small sampling of the opportunities The Village School provides each year to its students that allow them to grow at their own rate and in their own space while learning about the outside world. It is because of access to unique experiences like these, that our children develop the skills they need to become find both themselves and their place in this world.