So, I have often joked about how my classroom is like the 21st century version of the little red schoolhouse with the multi-grade level needs of my students, and how it’s like a mini United Nations because of all the countries and languages it often represents.
This year, as a class project that needed to touch on two themes, countries and careers, we learned about the United Nations. Together, they wrote and performed a speech as if they were ambassadors about an area of concern (deforestation and pollution). I used this video to inspire them and introduce the project.
There is not a lot of material available to the students that is at their reading level about the UN, so we studied the organization in two ways: first, we went together to the UN’s website for kids (which, frankly, needs a ton of work), and discussed and played one of the games there about disaster relief. The kids got to work in small groups discussing what resources they’d choose to purchase if they needed to protect their small island nation from a tsunami. We then discussed some of the different areas the UN works within and they chose the topic that interested them most and the career they’d like (for example, peace education and translator).
It was honesty done far too quickly and I would have liked to have made it a bigger part of my curriculum. The students I had this year are very aware of things like environmental issues; it seems to come up often as a connection or reference they make.
This all made me imagine both how terribly exciting and difficult it’d be to do a model United Nations curriculum with the kids. I can see them choosing and studying a country, learning to research, to collect relevant information, organize, present, and argue for ideas; all of which are higher-order thinking skills and would allow them to apply their gained knowledge, as outlined by the Common Core standards. It could even have the added benefit of creating teachable moments on conflict resolution, cultural awareness and respect which are often so needed in a class like mine.
Have any of you ever done a model UN with beginner ELLs, or elementary students? Or a similar meaty project? If so, what was it like?