Montessori students think globally through model UN

A dozen students from Jacksonville, North Carolina’s Montessori Children’s School recently trekked to New York City to present their research on the world’s problems and negotiate solutions with students representing different countries, an experience that offered lessons in both civics and character.

The 4th- through 6th-grade students served as delegates for Israel, Algeria, and Monaco at the Montessori Model United Nations (MMUN) New York Conference in late February, when they convened with students from across the globe to discuss issues like poverty, sustainable development, international security, and others, The Daily News reports.

Preparation began months before, with students researching the culture and pressing issues of their assigned countries, and crafting presentations and solutions for negotiation at the MMUN.

Student delegates followed the UN structure and procedures to navigate committees, where they worked to draft resolutions that they later voted on during a mock General Assembly at the actual UN in New York.

“Karalyn Marsh and Caleb Conklin, . . . fifth graders representing Israel, have found world issues are also complex ones,” The Daily News reports. “Karalyn’s research on the rights of indigenous people has included the topic of the Israel-Palestine conflict while Caleb is ready to discuss the Chemical Weapons Convention.”

The Montessori Children’s School representatives for Algeria focused on the country’s issues with military spending, poverty, and health care.

“They are spending a lot of money on the military and people are suffering and don’t have health care, food and basic essentials,” 4th-grader Grace Mayer told The Daily News.

The school’s MMUN coordinator, April Kennedy, described the conference and preparation as a global education with a real-life experience—one that’s been “eye opening” for many students studying problems like poverty and war.

“Preparing for the conference they’ve had to put themselves in others’ shoes and it has helped to broaden their perspective,” she said.

The MMUN is part of a tradition of cultivating global citizenship that is fraught with complexity.

Jeffrey Dill, a scholar at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture wrote in The Longings and Limits of Global Citizenship:

Schooling is the context in which society tells stories about itself . . . Education has the goal of creating a certain kind of person—a character in a story—with the values, characteristics, and skills a particular society holds as ideals.

Montessori education in general, and the MMUN in particular, tell an important and specific story.

Montessori education is based on assumptions about the nature of persons, and how they learn. And the MMUN places students as characters in a global story in which they need both skills and virtues to understand a problem, take another perspective, and work constructively with others. The Montessori community is a particular society, with unique practices that sustain a vision of their ideals of civic engagement.

The MMUN has a thoughtful preparation process that ensures the model UN experience is more than a fun field trip. The process sets a strong foundation with classroom lessons and after-school programs many months before the students arrive at the UN.