February 19 was not simply the district-wide Burnaby Professional-Development Day, it was the inaugural student-led Model United Nations (MUN) workshop – 90 minutes in which Burnaby’s own multi-aged students showcased their MUN skills to teachers in addition to their in-depth global knowledge.
The tables were indeed turned; teachers had a steep learning curve and relied upon the assistance of the 4 student volunteers to ‘learn the ropes’. Decision-making within the United Nations (UN) is a complex process with 193 member states vying for a better world in the context of deep political and historical ties and divisions.
One district teacher was suitably impressed and has planned to integrate the Model UN debate format into her grade 10 class on the topic of the rights of indigenous peoples, a current and significant UN concern. She plans to tap into the available student leadership again. “I am very excited to make this work”, the Byrne Creek Secondary teacher recently stated.
Students were very professional in their roles, and in their comments. Sarah B. was at first surprised that she knew more than the attending teachers. “The teachers who requested help from me didn’t know anything at all about Model UN, and had trouble writing their speech in the correct format,” she said. And yet, she did notice they picked up the techniques quickly. “I was awed by they way they presented their stance.” In Model UN debate, participants must present a position on a global issue which contributes to the full committee discussion but which also reflects the concerns and issues of the country they are representing.
Another volunteer, Lovely R., wanted teachers to remember that, “activities like these spark up our critical-thinking areas and develop us in terms of personal growth.” For her, “It was such an unforgettable experience, since it’s a rare chance for students to actually be able to work with teachers in something as engaging as Model United Nations.”
All four of the volunteers are keen participants in the district United Nations Connections club that meets weekly to build awareness of global issues and develop their collaborative, leadership and MUN skills. The majority of this group will be delegates of the upcoming CAHSMUN conference, a 3-day event that has students study two global topics in-depth and push committees to come up with resolutions on these issues. Bill X., began to attend external conferences 3 years ago with the UNC club, and has acted on the executive of several large MUN conferences in Metro Vancouver. Burnaby School District is fortunate to have such leaders in our midst, willing to share their truly inspiring gifts with teachers.