How to Teach Model UN for High Schools
Having a Model United Nations program at a high school can be an incredibly rewarding experience. It can also be a daunting experience if you are a teacher who is sponsoring the team. Depending on your degree, skills, and background, Model UN may be something you will be comfortable with but there is also a good chance that this is something you have never experienced before. No matter how you became a Model UN team sponsor, or if you are thinking of becoming one, this article will provide you with some beginner’s information and tips. Model UN should be a great experience for you, your students, and the school. This article will give you a brief overview of MUN and what to expect. If you have created a high school Model UN team or already have one, welcome! Please feel free to use our resources for your team.
What is Model UN?
Model UN has been around for a long time, so you are getting into something that is established and proven effective. In fact, there was even a Model League of Nations, the UN’s predecessor, before 1945. Since the 1940s, MUN has been helping students gain an understanding of international affairs. Model UN conferences are set up to simulate the operation of the actual United Nations and the issues its delegates face every day. Many of the important committees of the UN are replicated for the students to become delegates in while they are at the conference. Your school will be assigned one or more country to represent at a conference and your students will spend the time leading up to the conference immersing themselves in the research of that country. They will learn how their assigned country interacts with the global community and where that country stands on important global issues.
Benefits of a Model UN Program
The knowledge offered to students through the Model UN will give them the information they would probably not otherwise gain. Most students usually only have one global perspective; that of their own country and often familial political view. This gives them the chance to learn the intricacies of diplomacy and strategy that take place on the global level, eventually on a daily basis. The research skills they learn allows them to dig deeper into a story than what the news offers. In high school, there is often little opportunity for students to engage in the complex world of international affairs. This is especially true in an age of excess extracurriculars which rarely deal with speech or interpersonal skills, such as dance or robotics. Curriculums have not completely developed around the idea of a globalized international community even though students graduating will be competing with international students now more than ever. The Model UN process immerses students in this realm and prepares them for everything from talking to local politics when they travel abroad to standing out on college applications and impressing during the interview.
Model UN will help develop valuable skills in your students. Throughout the process, they will be continually researching and learning about their country and other countries even as they learn about their own abilities, limits and themselves. Students will have to engage in critical analysis to complete position papers and ready themselves for debate and negotiation. Their public speaking skills will be enhanced throughout the process as students learn to skillfully handle the ebb and flow of a debate controlled by parliamentary procedures. The skills that students learn in Model UN are ones that they will take with them into their future, whether that is college or the business world.
What You Need To Know
For those teachers who have never done this, you need to prepare yourself with a basic understanding of Model UN. Our article Intro to Model UN can help with that. Additionally, your students may have some questions about the United Nations itself. You do not need to an expert but having a basic understanding does help during the early stages. On this website, we have provided a great overview of the UN and its history. You can also find other articles in our guide index.
Unless your degree is in political science, focusing mainly on international affairs, then the topic of the United Nations was probably glossed over or never touched on at all. In fact, if you know nothing about the UN, don’t feel bad. Most people aren’t sure of the actual operations of the UN. We have tried to simplify the basics for you. The United Nations official website needs to be one of your first stops. Spend a few hours on there and you will know more than most about the UN. Model UN is not just a high school organization, with conferences and participants continuing to do Model UN sometimes through PhD. This is why it is very beneficial to start early as the skills learned can be useful throughout their academic experience.
Breakdown Of The Year
Broken down as simplistically as possible for now, here is the process you will be following throughout the year with a Model UN team.
- Get Approval and funding from your school for MUN team
- Recruit Students for the MUN team
The Team Prep
- Teach students basic MUN skills (or hire a coach)
- Teach students skills such as research, speaking, resolution writing, etc.
- Teach students committee debate procedures/points and motions
- Apply to your local or regional conference for participation
- Pay your fees to the conference body (don’t worry, it’s not too much)
- Arrange early for transportation and lodging (the earlier the better)
- Divide students into committees one you are assigned a country to represent
- Have students learn their country’s history and committee background
- Begin to write position papers for submission
- Get students there safely and check into the hotel
- Get to conference and register
- Get students to appropriate rooms for their committees
- Set up a central “command center” where you can be available to all students
- Watch all the hard work pay off
More details on each of these steps can be found in our article How to Build Your High School MUN Program.
Don’t panic if there are things there you don’t understand in that list. Much of this is covered right here on our website and there will be more in-depth articles on all of these topics. You may not be familiar with position papers or resolutions, but you can master them. Not everything needs to be learned before you start your Model UN team. You will be learning as you move throughout the year. Also, from your second-year students who finished the previous year will be there as support to make your club, and experience goes even more smoothly.