Prince George's Students Participate in Montessori Model United Nations

By Avis Thomas-Lester
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 12, 2009

Makaela Jackson, a member of the U.N. Security Council, traveled to New York last week as part of a delegation from Great Britain on a mission to end the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

She debated her issue with ambassadors representing countries from around the world. Then, on the floor of the United Nations in Manhattan, she sponsored a resolution asking that technological research be conducted to create a device to deactivate such weapons.

It was a real-life lesson for Makaela, a sixth-grader at Robert Goddard Montessori School in Seabrook and one of 42 students who made the trip from the school to participate in the Montessori Model United Nations program.

The program drew 600 students from the United States, Canada and the Virgin Islands to New York, where they spent four days performing the duties and responsibilities of United Nations members, said Judith Cunningham, executive director of the Montessori Model United Nations Program.

The students drafted resolutions, argued their countries' positions and negotiated for support with members from other countries, like actual ambassadors. The students spent their final session, March 4, in the General Assembly chamber, where they voted on the resolutions.

"We were an hour late because the [real] ambassadors were in the room, and their session ran late," said Candace Gunn, the parent liaison at Robert Goddard and one of the adults who chaperoned the students. "The students sat in the chairs while they were still warm."

The group from Robert Goddard -- 12 middle school students and 30 fourth- through sixth-graders -- represented seven countries.

Taylor James, a member of the model U.N. Peace Building Committee, presented a measure to raise awareness of child soldiers in Burundi. She said she wanted to educate and offer psychological aid to the youngsters.

Chancie Brown, 9, a fourth-grader, spoke on "the global effort of total elimination of racism and racial discrimination," an issue he discussed on national television. He and his schoolmates encountered "Today" show hosts Meredith Vieira and Al Roker while visiting the outdoor studio at Rockefeller Plaza on March 4. When Chancie asked whether he could explain his issue, Vieira asked him to do so on camera.

Later that day, Makaela's resolution was read by the president of the model U.N. Security Council, a teacher from New Jersey, on the floor of the General Assembly chamber, and it was approved.

"I felt very proud that my resolution was read," said Makaela, 11, of Glenn Dale. "I feel like I did something that helped the world."

The students, teachers and volunteer parents spent months preparing for the conference. The students chose and researched their issues, wrote position papers and drafted resolutions. They also traveled to the District to visit the embassies of the countries they represented.

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