Model UN Kept Alive During Remote Learning

Model UN Kept Alive During Remote Learning
Posted on 06/29/2020
Model UN brings together students to debate global issues. The last Montclair Model UN occurred in 2017. A snowstorm in 2018 was followed by the collapse of the stairs at Montclair High School and the ongoing construction in 2019. Together, these events prevented Model UN from going forward. Then came Covid-19 and remote learning. Will Polen, Montclair High School Class of 2020, and the tenacious president of the MHS Model Congress/UN Club remained undeterred. Under the leadership of MHS advisors Tom Manos and Bill Wingren, Polen and the rest of the Montclair High School students were determined to hold Model UN even if it had to occur in the digital space. On Tuesday, June 23, 2020 more than 50 students from Glenfield and Renaissance sharpened their debating skills and put them to the test. Using the Zoom platform, students debated in six committees that were held simultaneously. Social Studies teachers from Glenfield and Renaissance prepared the students for the debates and hosted the Zoom meetings, while the students from Montclair High School served as the committee chairs. “At a time when most students had grown tired of receiving instruction via computers, these students enthusiastically took on additional work and handled it with aplomb,” said Glenfield Teacher Syreeta Carrington. “We are so proud of them!”

screenshot of Zoom call

A snapshot of the Zoom committee, UNICEF: Prevent the use of Child Labor, that Syreeta Carrington supervised.

Here is a sampling of some of the thoughts and feelings from students about (Zoom) Model UN.

Why did you decide to still do Model UN even though we are in Remote Learning?
Nia, Grade 7: "I believe that Model UN is an enriching and fun experience. Even though we now have the additional challenge of not being able to meet in person, I still think this is an opportunity that shouldn't be passed up. The best way to overcome a hardship is to find a solution, and a remote Model UN is the best thing we can do as of now."

Madeleine, Grade 7: "I decided to do Model UN because it seemed like something relatively normal during strange times. I think it is important to continue to try and go the extra mile even when I'm not motivated." How did practicing via Zoom differ from in-person practices?

Ella, Grade 6: “I liked it better at school because I miss the social aspect of it because I miss being able to debate with my classmates in person. I think it’s still the same thing and it didn’t change all that much.”

Julian, Grade 6: “I miss being able to work with so many other people even outside of my committee but I’m happy that we are still able to practice this online.”

Adrian, Grade 6: “I like it better in person, mostly because we don’t have internet problems and because I like being able to see people in person rather than online.”

What are your overall thoughts about how Model UN went?

Katie Mathis, Junior, Chair of DISEC: “It was really cool to see the kids coming together to do the debate from all different locations. It was a difficult platform but we all rolled with it and ended up having a great time!”

Maggie Borgen, Junior, Chair of DISEC: “It was really amazing being a Chair for DISEC for this year’s MidMUNC! Although it can be hard to have discussions on Zoom, it actually worked fairly well for debate. Despite the pandemic and it being the end of the school year, it was clear all of the students put a lot of thought into their speeches and opinions. It was great seeing a couple of middle schoolers who were in my committee when I chaired for Model Congress last February. It also gave incoming 9th graders a small taste of the Model Congress/UN Clubs. Everyone was enthusiastic and engaged. It was overall a great experience that I think we all learned from.”

Will Polen, Senior, President of MHS Model Congress/UN Club: “After not being able to host MidMUNC for the past few years, I’m glad that we were able to find a creative solution and organize the first virtual conference in club history. MidMUNC is an extraordinary way for middle schoolers to become acclimated to debate and world issues and I believe it’s an invaluable and unique offering. The online format was a first for all teachers, middle schoolers, and high schoolers, and I’m incredibly proud of how everyone adapted. I’m especially proud of our high school chairs, who led debate with no set playbook and had to use their own liberty to create the best committee environment they could. This conference wouldn’t have been possible without their ingenuity.”

Taylor Abrams, Junior, Chair of Security Council: “Despite the seemingly difficult task of holding a formal debate over Zoom, everyone’s dedication and passion really shined and was able to make it a really comfortable and enjoyable experience, and continue the tradition of the club for yet another year.”

Shonita Srinivasan, Sophomore, Chair of UNICEF: “It was really good that we had this. We haven’t had Model UN for a while. It’s really nice to see that we all persisted during these times.”

Elias Benchekroun, Junior, Chair of UNICEF: “We’re really impressed with how the middle schoolers debated and it was so impressive to see how they handled themselves. MHS Model UN has a very bright future with these new young debaters.”
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