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HomeNewsArchivesDress Rehearsal for UN Trip: Montessori Students Present International Issues

Dress Rehearsal for UN Trip: Montessori Students Present International Issues

Feb. 26, 2007 — Twelve junior diplomats tested their persuasive skills Monday afternoon before a largely admiring audience of about 150 fellow V.I. Montessori students.
They will find a less sympathetic audience Thursday and Friday, when they debate issues on the floor of the United Nations in New York in a Model Montessori UN Program, where they will be 12 of about 450 other delegates from Montessori schools throughout the mainland U.S., its territories and Canada.
The students have been working for months to raise funds for the trip while studying intensively for their presentations. By and large they appeared to have conquered any butterflies, as they made their presentations in groups of three.
Considering their audience comprised at least 40 three-to-six year olds, the future diplomats did well. To present world affairs issues to this group is not an easy task, though the upper-school teacher,Bridget Heersink, who presided over the presentation, did lay out some groundwork.
The younger students sat neatly in three rows on the floor at the front of the open-air Music Room auditorium, before the older students, seated in back. Heersink asked the audience, "What is the purpose of the UN?"
Many little hands popped up. "They help people get things, like when they don't have any water," said one youngster. "If people don't have water, they will die."
Heersink smiled. "That's right, and how do they do things like this?"
An older student said, "It's to make a united effort for all countries to help people." Another voice said, "It's a united group of nations helping each other with poverty and human rights." Heersink agreed. "It's to deal with global issues, things that are too big for one country to deal with alone. We want all countries to respect human rights, to live up to the UN Millennium goals."
She asked what those goals are, and Maddie Russell, a middle school student and one of the delegates, rattled off seven of the eight, without hesitation. They address poverty, education, gender equality, child mortality, maternal health, combating diseases, environment and global partnership.
The students were assigned a country to represent, and issues to debate affecting their country. They chose Kenya and France.
Before introducing the presenters, Heersink told the students, "You may not understand all of this, but you will get something out of it. They have done a lot of research on these papers, and this is the first time they are reading them to an audience."
Mohammad Hamed, Elijah Jones and Kelsey Morrison represented issues coming before the UN Security Council from the point of view of France. After giving a summary of the strife in Darfur and what led to it, Jones spoke knowledgeably about how Sudan blocked a fact-finding mission by the UN Human Rights Council to Darfur by not issuing visas to members of France's mission. The other students spoke about nuclear proliferation in Korea, and France's objection.
Zachary Schulterbrandt, Zonelle Ottley and Julio Rhymer represented UNESCO, speaking about the rights of the child and the culture of peace.
Simonique Pearl-Edwards, Sarah Wheeler and Ariel Stolz represented the ECOCOC, the Economic and Social Council, speaking about freshwater resources and climate change. Pearl-Edwards delivered a sober commentary on water shortages and climate changes affecting Kenya. She quoted a recent study, "which shows that 5 million children in Kenya spend several hours each day hauling water that is usually polluted."
Global warming is affecting Kenya. "Kenya is getting warmer," Pearl-Edwards said, "Glaciers are melting." She said this illustrates the seventh millennium goal: "Poor people … are the most affected by environmental mismanagement. This is very true for most people in Kenya."
Spencer Winkles, Maddie Russell and Samantha Rosebury represented the General Assembly, discussing the UN Millennium Development Goals.
The students discussed best practices of member states in these areas and room for improvement, and how donor nations can better fulfill their obligations.
Gloria Baker, who teaches along with Heersink at the upper school, complimented the young diplomats on their presentations. "You have learned how to sort the information; it's an overwhelming job," she said. "And just think: Soon you will be sitting in the same chairs as the regular delegates."
"Sometimes actual delegates come to hear the model sessions," Baker said. "They say they get some refreshing new ideas." She said the youngsters would have an additional treat in New York, including a Broadway performance of "The Lion King," which she said was appropriate after all their study of Kenya.
Several parents sat proudly among the audience, along with Shournagh McWeeney, the Montessori school administrator, who was possibly the students' most enthusiastic fan. "This is such an exciting opportunity for our students to get involved in current affairs, and to interact with students from all over," she said.
The students had to raise $20,000 for the trip, which they have been doing through various projects, including a car wash. They were still short a few weeks ago, but, McWeeney said, "A benefactor came out of the blue and gave us the balance of the money we needed."
Heersink counseled her charges after the performance, telling them, "You stumbled over some words you should know — they were in papers. I want you to have these down perfectly by Thursday, even if you have to read them aloud 20 times."
She said later, "The kids really did well. They've never really done public speaking, and we don't do that in school."
About the trip, Heersink pondered, "We have learned so much, but there is so much more to learn. It wasn't always easy. I spoke to the Kenyan embassy, and they said they would send us information on the questions I asked, but they never did." She added, "I am teaching my kids never to behave like that; if you say you will do something, do it."
The students will stay at the Grand Hyatt Hotel across from the UN. They participate Thursday and Friday, then spend a few more days sightseeing.
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Feb. 26, 2007 -- Twelve junior diplomats tested their persuasive skills Monday afternoon before a largely admiring audience of about 150 fellow V.I. Montessori students.
They will find a less sympathetic audience Thursday and Friday, when they debate issues on the floor of the United Nations in New York in a Model Montessori UN Program, where they will be 12 of about 450 other delegates from Montessori schools throughout the mainland U.S., its territories and Canada.
The students have been working for months to raise funds for the trip while studying intensively for their presentations. By and large they appeared to have conquered any butterflies, as they made their presentations in groups of three.
Considering their audience comprised at least 40 three-to-six year olds, the future diplomats did well. To present world affairs issues to this group is not an easy task, though the upper-school teacher,Bridget Heersink, who presided over the presentation, did lay out some groundwork.
The younger students sat neatly in three rows on the floor at the front of the open-air Music Room auditorium, before the older students, seated in back. Heersink asked the audience, "What is the purpose of the UN?"
Many little hands popped up. "They help people get things, like when they don't have any water," said one youngster. "If people don't have water, they will die."
Heersink smiled. "That's right, and how do they do things like this?"
An older student said, "It's to make a united effort for all countries to help people." Another voice said, "It's a united group of nations helping each other with poverty and human rights." Heersink agreed. "It's to deal with global issues, things that are too big for one country to deal with alone. We want all countries to respect human rights, to live up to the UN Millennium goals."
She asked what those goals are, and Maddie Russell, a middle school student and one of the delegates, rattled off seven of the eight, without hesitation. They address poverty, education, gender equality, child mortality, maternal health, combating diseases, environment and global partnership.
The students were assigned a country to represent, and issues to debate affecting their country. They chose Kenya and France.
Before introducing the presenters, Heersink told the students, "You may not understand all of this, but you will get something out of it. They have done a lot of research on these papers, and this is the first time they are reading them to an audience."
Mohammad Hamed, Elijah Jones and Kelsey Morrison represented issues coming before the UN Security Council from the point of view of France. After giving a summary of the strife in Darfur and what led to it, Jones spoke knowledgeably about how Sudan blocked a fact-finding mission by the UN Human Rights Council to Darfur by not issuing visas to members of France's mission. The other students spoke about nuclear proliferation in Korea, and France's objection.
Zachary Schulterbrandt, Zonelle Ottley and Julio Rhymer represented UNESCO, speaking about the rights of the child and the culture of peace.
Simonique Pearl-Edwards, Sarah Wheeler and Ariel Stolz represented the ECOCOC, the Economic and Social Council, speaking about freshwater resources and climate change. Pearl-Edwards delivered a sober commentary on water shortages and climate changes affecting Kenya. She quoted a recent study, "which shows that 5 million children in Kenya spend several hours each day hauling water that is usually polluted."
Global warming is affecting Kenya. "Kenya is getting warmer," Pearl-Edwards said, "Glaciers are melting." She said this illustrates the seventh millennium goal: "Poor people ... are the most affected by environmental mismanagement. This is very true for most people in Kenya."
Spencer Winkles, Maddie Russell and Samantha Rosebury represented the General Assembly, discussing the UN Millennium Development Goals.
The students discussed best practices of member states in these areas and room for improvement, and how donor nations can better fulfill their obligations.
Gloria Baker, who teaches along with Heersink at the upper school, complimented the young diplomats on their presentations. "You have learned how to sort the information; it's an overwhelming job," she said. "And just think: Soon you will be sitting in the same chairs as the regular delegates."
"Sometimes actual delegates come to hear the model sessions," Baker said. "They say they get some refreshing new ideas." She said the youngsters would have an additional treat in New York, including a Broadway performance of "The Lion King," which she said was appropriate after all their study of Kenya.
Several parents sat proudly among the audience, along with Shournagh McWeeney, the Montessori school administrator, who was possibly the students' most enthusiastic fan. "This is such an exciting opportunity for our students to get involved in current affairs, and to interact with students from all over," she said.
The students had to raise $20,000 for the trip, which they have been doing through various projects, including a car wash. They were still short a few weeks ago, but, McWeeney said, "A benefactor came out of the blue and gave us the balance of the money we needed."
Heersink counseled her charges after the performance, telling them, "You stumbled over some words you should know -- they were in papers. I want you to have these down perfectly by Thursday, even if you have to read them aloud 20 times."
She said later, "The kids really did well. They've never really done public speaking, and we don't do that in school."
About the trip, Heersink pondered, "We have learned so much, but there is so much more to learn. It wasn't always easy. I spoke to the Kenyan embassy, and they said they would send us information on the questions I asked, but they never did." She added, "I am teaching my kids never to behave like that; if you say you will do something, do it."
The students will stay at the Grand Hyatt Hotel across from the UN. They participate Thursday and Friday, then spend a few more days sightseeing.
Back Talk Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.