The Power of Extracurricular Activities: Model United Nations

Posted on: Tue, 01/15/2019 - 09:00

There is plenty of research to support the value of student participation in extracurricular activities—from increased engagement to better academic achievement. FCPS offers a variety of opportunities for our students to explore interests through extracurricular programs. One exceptional example is the Model United Nations.

Aspirational Goal 1 for Frederick County Public Schools is to “equip each and every student to be an empowered learner and an engaged citizen to achieve a positive impact in the local and global community.” The Model United Nations program, offered in collaboration with Hood College, provides a real-world simulation that enables students to represent a country as they address a contemporary global issue as a delegate to the United Nations. Empowered learner?  They have to research the issue, the country, but also figure out how to collaborate with others to achieve a solution. Engaged citizen? These students see the importance of understanding the complexity of an issue, advocating for solutions, and compromising to achieve a result.

It is hard to describe the value of this event and its impact on students on paper. You need to be there to feel the energy and to hear these young people passionately describe the need for a cultural change in Guyana if violence against women is to be addressed. Data and statistics are important in their arguments, but the compassion they reveal and the empathy they express—that is what gives me chills!

Here are a few other reactions from those closely involved with the program.

Gracie Tanner, a senior at Frederick High, shares that “Model UN allows students to build a stronger sense of leadership through working with their peers, and assists with building a student’s confidence, especially with public speaking. Model UN also allows students to value and consider others’ viewpoints, whether the particular student’s or the country that they represent.” Other students echoed Gracie’s comments, noting that Model UN not only builds tangible skills like public speaking, but also boosts participants’ grasp of empathy and problem solving.

Colleen Bernard, FCPS’s Secondary Social Studies Curriculum Specialist and coordinator of our Model UN activities, beautifully sums up the educational and experiential benefits of this program. She notes that “The Model UN Simulation provides students with real world experiential learning on a macro scale… requiring a variety of skills and abilities for success.  Students must use research and critical analysis skills… written expression and argumentation skills… verbal communication and discourse skills during the course of the simulation to advocate for their country’s position.  Throughout the course of the simulation, students must be mindful of civility... Students must collaborate in order to negotiate an effective solution during the resolution construction process, and practice empathy to advocate points of view that they may not agree with, as well as see the point of view of others.”

Through this extracurricular activity, students may find a future career option or they may learn how to better persuade a group. Mostly, they have the opportunity to apply what they have learned in their academic career and to renew their commitment to “saving the world.” And that should make all of us hopeful for the future!

Join me on Twitter @FCPSMDSuper to congratulate all of our amazing Model UN participants and all FCPS students to excel in extracurricular activities! And if you enjoyed this post, please feel free to share it on Facebook or Twitter.