“Do you know what it’s like to be dying of thirst?”
This was the opening line of the seventh grade delegates representing Turkey at the Malden District Middle School Model UN Simulation held last Monday December 13, 2010.
After preparing for ten class periods and participating in in-school simulations in four Malden middle schools, the star negotiators, public-speakers, and future leaders were chosen to represent their school at a district wide simulation. Students from Ferryway, Salemwood, Linden, and Beebe Middle Schools in Malden descended on the Malden senior center to debate, negotiate, and propose solutions to the global issue of water scarcity.
During the debate, the delegates brought to the floor many issues connected to water scarcity, including health concerns, gender inequality, and international debt forgiveness. The delegate from Egypt suggested that the developed world forgive 1.5% of the global debt owed to them by the developing world so those funds could go to water projects, such as building wells and irrigation systems. The delegate from France offered to share engineers and technology to the developing world to help build national water infrastructure. And many delegates were appalled that women and children were missing out on an education because they had to walk several miles every morning just to fill one jerry can with water.
After having only ten class periods and one simulation to prepare, these Malden Middle School Students were proposing solutions that would provide foreign aid, send technology experts, and bring medical supplies to the developing world, who suffers the most from water scarcity. The Malden Middle School students did an outstanding job of working to fix a major global issue, water scarcity, in just two and a half hours.
The UNA-GB hosts many fantastic events for its members throughout the greater Boston Area. In addition to this, it also reaches out to area public and charter schools to provide young middle and high school students a chance to participate in Model UN. Our Education interns in the office help run these programs by writing topic guides (on Clean Water, for instance) and teaching the students how to act as if they were Ambassadors to the United Nations debating an issue before the General Assembly or another UN body. I recently sat in on a Model UN simulation at Northeastern University, and it was a great experience!
Two Education interns, Deenah and Allison, acted as moderators while the middle school students debated the issue of “animal trafficking.” When the debate became rowdy, Deenah and Ali simply had to quietly murmur “Decorum” or tap a wooden gavel on the plastic table, and the students immediately quieted down.
Students represented various countries that included India, France, Mexico, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Italy, and a slew of others. Animal trafficking really seemed to strike a chord with the students as they passionately debated different solutions to the issue such as taxation or extended jail time. It was amazing to see how far they extended their thinking, including how to deal with corrupt law enforcement, the possibility of creating an animal sanctuary, and even organizing charity walks to promote awareness of the issue.
I think the best part of this experience was seeing the kids work through their differences and come to common solutions. I will admit it seemed to get heated at times as everyone had their own opinion and wanted to be heard. Although the students attended different schools, to some extent they were able to break through that initial awkwardness and work together. They embraced the fun and comfortable setting, immersing themselves in the language of the UN in every aspect of life–even when requesting ‘a point of personal privilege’ to use the bathroom.
The simulation will help them out later in life with public speaking abilities, conflict resolution in their daily lives, and even prospective interviews for future employment. Although I only witnessed the last few hours of the simulation (it had been going on all week), it seemed to me that these students were much more confident than I or any other of my peers had been at that age.
At the end of the assembly, they were given the opportunity to give feedback–what they thought went well and what they should work on if they chose to participate in the future.
I was impressed by how spot-on the kids were with their strengths and weaknesses, how they could diplomatically express weaknesses while also modestly congratulate their strengths.
It made me wish that I had had the opportunity to participate in Model UN when I was younger.
More to come!