Kansas City, February 20, 2020: A cadre of sixth graders are shaping the future of humanity in a second-floor, corner classroom at Border Star Montessori School in Kansas City’s Brookside neighborhood.
Border Star’s sixth graders are spending about three hours or more every class day preparing to serve as delegates at the 2020 Montessori Model United Nations conference, which will be held March 4-7 in New York City. This trip serves as a capstone experience for a group of scholars who have spent years together learning how to explore the world and develop innovative solutions to international challenges.
The Model UN program at Border Star Montessori is a unique opportunity for elementary-age students to engage at a truly global scale, according to sixth-grader Mylan Childres.
“It’s definitely expanded my mindset and made me realize that there really are problems in the world that need to be solved,” Mr. Childres said. “Thanks to Model UN, adults are letting kids have a say and share our ideas. That’s what’s so exciting about going to New York. We can actually make a difference and help people.”
In Border Star’s Model UN program, students in fourth, fifth and sixth grades run their combined class like the United Nations, according to teacher Meridith Burton. The students represent different nations as delegates and serve on committees. They independently study their nation’s history, politics and culture, and are expected to represent their government’s positions on various issues as their counterparts might in the real UN.
The centerpiece of the Model UN experience for each participant is selecting a challenge faced by their nation and then developing a solution. The students in the Border Star delegation have been researching issues like food insecurity, human rights abuses, gender discrimination and violence against journalists.
Ultimately, the students draft resolutions about the issues that include their solutions and provide reasons why they think those ideas will work. They are then expected to prepare and deliver one-minute speeches in support of their resolutions during the conference in NYC.
“We’re learning about what’s going on in the world and we’re working together to help solve problems. We’re doing the best we can to reach an agreement,” sixth-grader Grace Sellars said. “You have to prioritize the issues, educate yourself and stand up for what you believe in, backed up by facts and evidence.”
Several of the Border Star sixth graders indicated that the prospect of speaking at the Model UN was their biggest challenge as they prepared for the experience. About 2,500 student-delegates are expected to attend, and a few of them could be selected to share their resolutions in the actual United Nations General Assembly.
“I did get really nervous about having to speak in public, but we’re here to support each other,” sixth-grader Kairos Im said. “I’m ready now, and this is an amazing opportunity. It’s helped me become more community driven and more serious about helping other people.”
Border Star is the only school in the Kansas City region that participates in the Montessori Model UN program, according to Ms. Burton. Montessori classrooms are structured around student-driven, experiential and cooperative teaching and learning. The Model UN program enhances this educational experience for Montessori students.
“It’s a phenomenal experience. They dive into government, history, culture, art, science, the environment,” Burton said. “They dive into the world and learn their place in the world. That work is on them. I’m just here to facilitate them.”
Border Star Montessori is a pre-K through sixth grade public elementary in the Kansas City Public Schools system. Any family that lives within KCPS can apply to enroll their children in Border Star Montessori or Harold Holliday Montessori School. Visit enrollkc.org to learn more about all of the world-class public-school options within KCPS.