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.
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