Last week, six of our eighth graders traveled to New York City to participate in the Montessori Model United Nations. While attending the MMUN, students used drama and role-playing to act as international delegates, learning about and discussing serious international issues that affect the world’s population today. Some of the topics of discussion were security, human rights, child labor, the environment, food and hunger, economic development and globalization.
Aside from learning about the inner workings of the United Nations, these students also developed a better understanding of the political views, cultures and beliefs of other countries around the world. Placed into groups with peers from across the country, students were given a current issue facing a specific nation and were expected to work together to think of an effective solution. MMS 8th graders Zoe A. and Jacob T. were both placed into a group with students from other schools to assume their role as a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) promoting water accessibility in Sudan. Together, the students named their organization SWAP: Supply Water to All People. “It was a good experience working with the other students as we all pitched in our ideas to work together,” Jacob says. Adds Zoe, “We all had to write a paper about NGOs before coming to the Model United Nations, so when we got together we were able to bring in pieces from each of our different papers to create one idea as a whole.”
Although the students enjoyed working with peers from different backgrounds and with varied viewpoints, they quickly learned how difficult it can be to settle on a unanimous decision about a specific issue. “Working with my group to find solutions for disaster relief in Sudan, it was hard to get everyone to agree on the best solution,” says Connor K. “There was some arguing at first, but eventually we learned to work together and came up with a solution we could all agree on.”
After role-playing during their model UN, students visited the actual United Nations building. They were able to attend voting sessions, and were given the opportunity to sit in their designated country’s delegate chair. “After working on behalf of Sudan [at the MMUN], it was cool to be able to sit in the actual Sudanese chair at the U.N,” says Zoe.
The eighth graders’ trip wasn’t all politics; they were also able to squeeze in some sight seeing around New York City, including visits to the Brooklyn Bridge, Empire State Building, Times Square, Chinatown and a trip to the Statue of Liberty by way of the Staten Island Ferry. Students were also given the chance to take in the Broadway play Peter and the Starcatchers, a prequel to the classic novel Peter Pan.
The students came home from their trip to New York energized about the city and what they learned from the MMUN. “It was a great experience,” says Connor K. “I would absolutely participate again if I were given the chance.”
The MMUN trip is the perfect transition to the students’ upcoming participation in the MMS edition of the World Peace Game, another political simulation wherein they will further explore global connectedness through the lens of economic, social and environment crises. It is through learning early on in life about our global politics that our students can achieve a greater understanding of international concerns, and how to work together to find effective solutions to worldwide issues that may arise in the future.