Global Conflicts can be pretty overwhelming to address with students.
They are complex, involve a diverse range of perspectives, and a deep understanding of cultural, historical and economic nuances to fully comprehend.
It’s understandable therefore that many teachers sidestepped the whole Ukraine issue when war first broke out a few moths ago.
But a few courageous teachers took the conflict head on- using it as the pretext for a real world project.
Their students (some as young as 11 years old) would assume the role of country ambassador in a Model United Nations Conference to not only address the crisis, but also reach agreement on how to resolve it diplomatically.
Here are the transformations these teachers saw in their students as a result:
“Students got 100% involved in global issues, which makes them develop skills that will be useful for their lives.”
“Students had to learn how to effectively communicate using sources. Many of our 6th graders do not come in with social norms of collaboration, citing sources and information, or presentation skills. Many of these skills are present in the Model UN Framework.”
“Many students immediately went to war with Russia but driving them back to the goals of the UN focused them on the task. They had to innovate other ways we’ve solved conflict and particularly through the lens of their own country.”
“Students were worried that this project was going to be extremely difficult in terms of skill level but when scaffolded in chunks and reading levels adjusted, they were able to access the material and participate in class discussions. Students felt more confident talking about the issue with their caregivers at home.”
“I had one student with Aspergers talk about how it has changed his life – a usually nervous student just embracing the online conference he did and just loving the interaction with people, the formal topics and the way that MUN formalises its procedures.”
What exactly is Model United Nations?
Model United Nations is an academic simulation of the United Nations in which students play the role of delegates from different countries in an attempt to solve real world issues with the policies and perspectives of their assigned countries. (Source: MUN Made Easy)
Are you thinking about starting a Model United Nations Club/Simulation at your school?
Here are some expert tips from some teachers who ran it for the first time:
What was the age level of the students who participated in your Model United Nations Simulation/Club?
20% Lower Secondary (Middle School)
80% Upper Secondary (High School)
What were some of the biggest challenges in running an Effective MUN Project/Simulation?
- Continuity- Conferences take several hours and are best completed in the successive days
- Ensuring everyone has the chance to speak
- Last minute finishing of presentations for the simulation day
- Quality of resolution writing
- Relinquishing control and delegating tasks to students
- Planning all the lessons and activities from scratch (worthwhile but time consuming)
- Students lack of skills/understanding of types of government, economic systems, how to research, etc.
- Getting enough source material and ‘learning as you go’ (great opportunity but also a challenge!)
What are some of your biggest takeaways/suggestions for Running an Effective MUN Project/Simulation?
💡 Conduct several simulations to give students practice and keep them interested (Here is an example of a fun simulation topic)
💡 If you want to help new students, have leaders work with them and/or create MUN ‘cheat sheets’ (outlines for resolution, speeches, research links, etc.)
💡 Students sometimes think they know more than they do. Training the MUN Chairs (the ones who moderate the debate) takes a lot of time and practice.
💡 Students are more capable than we think and provides a great platform for those who don’t typically excel
💡 Pre-teach types of governments, economic systems, and how to research effectively prior to running your first MUN project
💡 Research, writing and critical thinking and public speaking do not come easy for most students. Make sure to provide several scaffolds to support students in each stage.
💡 Students will develop friendships that last well beyond the simulation.
💡 Integrating the Model UN framework throughout the year instead of as a stand alone unit would provide a bigger payoff- especially in teaching world cultures with social studies skills
How will you address global issues with your students?
Project-Based Learning doesn’t require advanced degrees, multiple years of teaching practice, and a bookcase full of resources to implement; but more a willingness to learn alongside our students and let them take the lead.
And if you need a pep talk to get started, I’m just an email away. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
To your success with Model United Nations!