The world is a curious place and middle school students are amongst its most curious of learners. They are old enough to reason, yet young enough to still wonder. “Why do human beings show such little regard for their environment; why can’t countries get along with one another; why do some children go to school when others are forced to work in factories?” These are among the many questions that middle school students ask in their Civitas United Nations programs.
Playing the role of a U.N. delegate is first introduced to 6th grade students. In 7th and 8th grades, they work with more complex issues and sophisticated agendas. The solutions they create are often models to the adults they emulate.
Each spring, students from dozens of middle schools in the St. Louis area convene at the Creve Coeur Government Center to take on the roles of delegates from member countries of the United Nations. They prepare from October through May, beginning with a two hour Fall workshop with over 800 students in the Khorassan Room at St. Louis’ Chase-Park Plaza Hotel. In the winter, Civitas staff make one or two classroom visits to each school. The issues that consistently grab students’ attention are generally related to human rights: child labor, women’s rights, protecting the environment, universal access to education, and health care. Their resolutions are carefully crafted with considerable assistance from very capable classroom teachers. They learn to anticipate the likely comments, questions, and amendments related to their resolutions. They plan how they will respond to these remarks.
The agenda of the spring session generally includes six resolutions, so students need to learn how to allocate sufficient time to address all issues. It is a pleasant surprise every Spring to see how prepared and skilled middle school students are at addressing important global issues.
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