No matter how many Model UN conferences I attend, I’m always a little amazed. These are students who could be hanging out at home, watching TV, or playing video games, and instead they want to put on a suit, work on a weekend, and develop solutions to the world’s most important problems. What makes them want to do MUN? And what makes Model UN worth teaching?
Model UN motivates students to learn.
On an emotional level, Model UN is a motivational experience. It’s fun to pretend being a world leader solving the world’s most important problems in 48 hours or less. Model UN activates students’ imagination and creativity – activities that students are naturally inclined to do.
Students enjoy exploring new places, sharing common experiences with teammates and friends, and making new friends with smart and interesting students from other schools – which includes the best and the brightest from other countries.
Students joke that “MUN is F-U-N,” but it’s true – that’s why it works so well. Students attend Model UN conferences because it’s fun – they just happen to learn something along the way. And when students have fun while learning, what they learn is more likely to stick.
Model UN reinforces what students learn in the classroom.
In the classroom, students learn from their teacher. At conferences, students learn from each other. The conference does not replace the classroom – the conference complements the classroom. Students have to internalize what they learn in class and deliver that information through speeches, caucusing, and resolutions.
The role of the teacher in Model UN is to guide this “student-led” learning by ensuring information quality (e.g. proper research, position papers) and giving students the tools to teach one another (e.g. public speaking, resolution writing).
Model UN teaches students about the world.
In this era of globalization, learning about the world is more important than ever. No matter what field or profession students enter, they will interact with people from different countries and diverse backgrounds. Problems taking place halfway around the globe impact our lives, our country, and our communities.
Students learn about the world as they prepare for Model UN conferences, represent countries other than their own, and present possible solutions to global problems in committee. Students also learn by meeting people from other countries and travel to places they’ve never been before.
Model UN builds confidence and leadership skills.
I know so many students who were so scared to speak at their first conference that went on to become active participants in committee and in the classroom. In his speech on “What Model UN Means to Me,” KFC shares his story of how he went from a scared high school delegate to Secretary-General of GCIMUN delivering the opening speech at the UN to over 3,000 people, including Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon:
Students develop confidence and leadership skills through experience. Model UN conferences are opportunities to practice research, public speaking, teamwork, negotiation, and writing skills in a safe and structured environment.
What many people don’t realize is that Model UN also teaches business skills – running a conference is like running a small business that involves finding
“customers” (delegates), developing a “product” (the conference), and managing peers. It also serves as a fundraiser, with many high school conferences raising thousands of dollars at a time when schools are slashing budgets and cutting programs.
Model UN helps students get into international universities.
Model UN provides students with the learning and leadership experiences that admissions officers look for. The depth of these experiences serves as possible material for personal essays and interviews. Model UN is also an extensive network of alumni at top colleges.
But the biggest benefit of Model UN goes beyond the classroom and the conference – it happens at home.
I often meet parents who are new to Model UN that were so surprised when their child came home from school one day and started talking about the situation in the Middle East. At conferences, I watch parent chaperones beaming with pride after seeing their child make a speech in committee.
Last but not least, Model UN is a powerful educational tool that offers highly valuable benefits to students and their families. The goal of the Model UN teacher is to deliver those benefits.