Montessori students serve as delegates from Pakistan at United Nations

Peace on a personal and international level has been the focus of much of Montessori students' education, following the principles set forth by Maria Montessori over one hundred years ago.
MMUN Pakistan voting
MMUN Pakistan voting
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PRINCETON, N.J. - April 17, 2014 - PRLog -- Sixth and seventh grade students from Princeton Montessori School recently took part in the Montessori Model United Nations (MMUN), serving as the delegates from the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.  After a year of research, writing, learning, and preparation, fourteen students and three of their teachers journeyed to Brooklyn, New York, and spent four days with close to a thousand other Montessori middle school students from all around the world.   While in New York, the students spent three days working on Model UN committees in which they worked on specific problems plaguing the world, such as small arms trafficking, childhood obesity, and nuclear security.

“Montessori Model UN has been a wonderful experience for the students,” said middle school teacher and MMUN coordinator Lisa Stolzer, “It’s opened up their eyes to so many issues in the world and given them the message that they don’t have to wait until adulthood to be part of the solutions to the world’s problems.”

The goal for each committee was the drafting and passing of resolutions that would offer viable solutions to the problems being discussed, with each group striving for a consensus agreement.  While doing MMUN committee work, the students learned to use the terminology and rules of order specific to United Nations work and communications, such as saying “Point of inquiry” instead of “Can I ask a question?” and “The Islamic Republic of Pakistan believes…” instead of “I believe…”  The structure of the committee sessions was decided upon completely by the students present, with help from Montessori trained committee presidents, who offered suggestions and guidance, but in the end, let the students determine how best to use their time.  Students put forth motions for moderated caucuses, in which they could choose to be added to a formal list of speakers who would state their positions by addressing the whole group, or unmoderated caucuses, during which they could mingle freely, speaking to delegates from other countries and striving to form alliances with them, or working together to write working papers which would eventually become resolutions.

One committee, called the NGO Forum, had a different structure than the other committees.  Students in the NGO Forum worked together to come up with plans for the establishment of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) which would address issues in the country of Malawi.  Humanitarian and former Eagles and Giants captain Jack Brewer worked with the students.  After his NFL career, Brewer established the Jack Brewer Foundation (JBF).  According to the foundation’s website, its goal is “to ‘Empower from Within’ and is dedicated to providing resources and opportunities to the world’s most underserved populations using sport as our catalyst.”  Brewer has done a great deal of work with the UN on issues in Malawi, and he helped the students to understand the challenges faced by people there.  Over the course of two days, the students designed NGOs, and these were voted on by all of the MMUN students at a social event on the third night.  Mr. Brewer was in the audience, joined by potential investors who were prepared to donate money to any viable NGO ideas put forth by the students.  In the end, the investors decided to donate to a student-designed NGO which would bring needed agricultural supplies to the people of Malawi.

After two days of committee work, the students all convened in the General Assembly room of the United Nations to vote on the draft resolutions on which they had collaborated.  They sat in the seats usually occupied by the actual UN delegates and cast their votes using the same equipment.  The experience of being in the huge room that has been the stage for so many world issues was an exciting one for the students.  They were thrilled to pass all but one of the resolutions drafted.

“Part of what made the Montessori Model UN experience so special for the students is that it emphasized peaceful resolution and cooperation rather than competition which traditional model UN programs sometimes do,” says Ms. Stolzer. “Many people do not know that Maria Montessori supported the work of the League of Nations and its successor, the United Nations, as a forum where peace could be created. She recognized that the hope for peace lay in the education of children.”

Stolzer continued, “The experience also exposed the students to global ideas they may have never thought about before.  For some of them, it was a stretch to do the work needed to be prepared for the conference.  But each of them came away with something important, whether it was stepping out of their comfort zones to speak to a group of a hundred people, making new friends from around the globe, or understanding how life is lived in other parts of the world.  Most importantly, Montessori Model UN taught them that they can make a difference in the world, right now.”

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