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Navigation Model U.N.
With global strife as ubiquitous and intractable as ever, it is vital that young people consider the problems of international conflict and develop a conceptual framework and skills for understanding these difficult problems. A simulation developed by the United Nations involves students in playing the roles of U.N. delegates. Acting in these roles, they experience the dynamics of international conflict and negotiation. Participants in the Model U.N. consistently report that the experience is not only enjoyable but also expands their view of the world.

Video Summary
At the Salk School of Science in New York City, sixth and seventh graders practice conflict resolution skills through a model U.N. program -- a simulation of a U.N. Security Council meeting in which country delegates deal with a dispute between Guyana and Venezuela. Students, in their roles as delegates, resolve the conflict through discourse, negotiation, and compromise. In the process, they develop valuable skills and expand their consciousness of global issues.
What is Facing History?
The Model U.N. program is a simulation designed to help students learn through experience about international conflict and diplomacy. Students participate in a mock meeting of the United Nations General Assembly, assuming the roles of delegates from various countries who must grapple with the issues on the agenda. (The agendas vary; there are a number of different scenarios that can be used.)

Schools structure the Model U.N. program in many different ways. The program can involve one class, one grade, the whole school, or several schools. Some regional Model U.N. programs draw hundreds of students from a large geographic area. The duration can run anywhere from a weekend (with advance preparation) to a number of weeks. The scale and the scope of the program can be tailored to fit the goals and resources of the organizers.
The Model U.N. process consists of three basic steps:

(Adapted from the pamphlet "Introduction to the Model U.N.," published by the United Nations Association of the United States of America. )

Step 1: Preparation. Students learn about the U.N. and how it works, and they research the country they represent and the issues on the agenda. Research is done as a group effort by teams of delegates from the various countries, and it can take considerable time.

Step 2: Participation. Students apply the information and knowledge they gained in the research stage as they become diplomats within the actual simulation. Their goals are to address the issues on the agenda and develop a workable resolution that a large number of nations can support. Delegates, in their cooperative teams, make speeches, caucus with delegates of other countries, produce draft resolutions, and work towards reaching an agreement among delegate groups. The process culminates in the adoption by vote of one or more resolutions.

Step 3: Evaluation. Participants reflect on what they learned from their experience. They consider:
  • What did the session accomplish, from the point of view of the country that you represented?
  • How closely did the Model U.N. simulate the real U.N.?
  • In what ways do you see world affairs and the U.N. differently than before?
  • What impressed you most about the experience?
  • What skills did you develop?
  • What skills did you identify that you need to work on?
  • What questions did the Model U.N. raise that you might want to explore in greater depth?


Activities for Students


One


If students are interested in starting a Model U.N. program, involve them in the planning and design process. Issues to consider are:

  • What information do we need? (See Resources for suggestions on whom to contact and what to read.)
  • What are the roles, functions, and tasks involved in a Model U.N. program?
  • What time frame do we want to allow for this? (Weekend, in-class, etc.; students might contact other schools in their areas with model U.N. programs for examples to follow.)
  • What grade or grades would be involved?
  • Would we want to invite other schools?
  • What kind of support will we need from faculty? Will we need support from parents?


TWO


To begin to get a sense of what the U.N. is and what it does, students can gather articles and report on TV news stories involving the U.N. for a period of several weeks. You might set aside a brief time every day to review students' findings. Students can create bulletin board displays to showcase their research.



Rules for Academic Controversy

Through their experience in the Model U.N. program, students gain:

  • knowledge about the U.N., specific nations, and the processes of diplomacy
  • comprehension of national interests, geography, cultural characteristics and values, and international legal and financial systems
  • understanding of current events and history
  • research and reading comprehension skills
  • public speaking and debating skills
  • information analysis, synthesis, and evaluation skills
  • critical thinking and problem-solving skills
  • negotiation skills
  • social skills of cooperation and leadership
  • appreciation of the perspectives and concerns of others



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