From right: Akosua Dapaah, Nathan Terry, Jared Harlow, Michaelangelo Blount, Malaysia Huskey and Kailyn Pavlicek of Stedwick Elementary in Montgomery Village participate in the model U.N. (Moira E. McLaughlin/The Washington Post)

Dreamland. Burgerland. Marioland. Monsterbotlandia. They aren’t real countries, are they? Of course not! But that didn’t stop the fourth-graders at Stedwick Elementary School in Montgomery Village from representing these places at an unusual kind of model United Nations.


The real United Nations was founded in 1945 to maintain peace and international cooperation. It’s now made up of representatives from 193 countries who meet in New York City to discuss world problems and solutions. Middle schoolers and high schoolers around the world participate in model United Nations when they pretend to represent countries and meet just as the real countries do.

Kids at Stedwick and their teacher, Mary Darling, went about their model United Nations in a different way by making up their own countries on a planet called Utopia. Utopia is a place with no problems, so you wouldn’t think the U.N. delegates had a lot to do. But this make-believe world wasn’t quite living up to its name.

“I think this is important,” Monsterbotlandia delegate Trung Ngu said about a resolution — or an idea that the group would vote on — that would help keep all countries healthy. “Because what if they don’t have enough food? We could give food to the international garden so there is enough food.”

In Dreamland, “there’s a lot of shooting stars,” said Akosua Dapaah, the country’s president. In a country called New Lab, “they’re worried about tornadoes and bombs,” said delegate Olivia Awumah.

The kids came up with a fictional country name, history and flag. They even drew their countries and put them on a Utopia world map.

Every student had to write a resolution that he or she wanted to discuss at the meeting. Nathan Terry from Ewokland proposed a resolution about providing health care for everyone. Sarah Stoolmiller from Plaineland proposed a resolution banning smoking around kids. And Dandre Dixon from Pirate Island wrote a resolution protecting animals, especially sea turtles.

Learning procedure

“Point of order!” said Kailyn Pavlicek, the president of Lakuwamma, to get her fellow representatives’ attention. “I have an amendment.”

That means Kailyn wanted to add something to the resolution.

“We should have an international garden, so people can have more food since countries are dying,” she said. “The more you give, the more you get back.”

For the students, a big part of the activity was learning the language and the rules that the real United Nations uses. That’s called parliamentary procedure. For example, in order to speak, the representatives had to raise a card with their country’s name on it. Then they had to wait to be called on by the secretary general, who leads the United Nations.

“Recognize the delegate of Olympus,” said Secretary General Brian Stoppelmoor.

“We should vote on this resolution,” delegate Jaleel Ogiste responded.

“It’s kind of hard because you have to use parliamentary procedure and make sure everyone does the right thing and is not out of order or anything,” Brian said, during a recess, or a break, in the meeting.

After the recess, the delegates finally voted on a resolution ensuring that countries that sell animals for food sell only healthy animals. It passed with 14 delegates voting yes, one no, and one abstaining, or not voting at all.

Making utopia

Olivia wrote a resolution that would fine any country that litters. The group didn’t get to her resolution, but she enjoyed participating in her school’s model United Nations in any case.

“I think it’s fun, interesting and very educational,” she said. “We learned what we can do when we grow up to make it a better place and have utopia.”

Moira E. McLaughlin