Fourth and fifth graders Silas Stanek-Streed, Tomas Carreno, and Matthew Coggins from Vineyard Montessori School recently had their first experience with the Montessori Model United Nations conference (MMUN) in New York.
Irene Wendt, their teacher and chaperone on the trip, said about the conference, “You really have to be open to everyone’s opinion. [The conference] was very Montessori-esque. It encouraged everyone to come forward with their thoughts and ideas.”
In MMUN, kids select a country to represent and two issues to debate. They have to research their country’s position on the issue and then act as if they were a delegate from that country in committee. They participate in formal debate (moderated caucuses) and informal debate (unmoderated caucuses).
Silas and Matthew were in the Disarmament and International Security Committee (DISEC), while Tomas tackled the Human Rights Council (HRC) alone.
Tomas, representing Poland, had to debate the Israel-Palestine and the Syrian conflicts.
“I barely knew anybody when I first walked in. I was really nervous. As the conference went on though, I got more comfortable and it wasn’t as scary,” Tomas said.
His mother, Patty Gallaredo, who chaperoned the trip said, “It’s not the same Tomas. It’s like he’s a different boy after the trip; it was such a good opportunity. Having kids talk about such difficult topics makes them feel important and empowered. It teaches them respect, discipline, and responsibility.”
Mrs. Wendt shared her perspective, saying, “They’ve been doing a little public speaking in front of their class, but getting up in front of a room of strangers is a whole other deal. It was great to see them start out nervous and become more at ease as they saw other kids get up and talk. I was really proud, Silas memorized his opening speech.”
Silas and Matthew researched cyber security and illicit small arms trafficking in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. They had to form blocs with other countries in order for their resolutions to be passed. For illicit small arms trafficking, Matthew said, “Tomas was a leader, but so were we. We had the whole room in our bloc.”
Who got to be in their bloc for cyber security was more selective. “We wanted a smaller group for cyber security. We made it a hidden one in the corner and only invited certain people,” Silas said.
Closing ceremonies for the conference were held at the the actual United Nations headquarters. The kids got to sit in the real delegates seats and vote on the resolutions that they’d spent the weekend creating.
Next year, eight students from Vineyard Montessori School will be able to attend MMUN.
“We’re going to have apprentices next year,” Matthew said. “So many kids from our class want to go and we’re going to show them how it’s done.”