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Cayman Montessori Students Get a Taste of the United Nations

Cayman’s Montessori by the Sea’s (MBTS) Grade Six class recently participated in the Montessori Model United Nations conference held in New York City from 19-23 March, 2024. 

Montessori Model UN (MMUN) is a division of Youth For a Better World, a non-profit organisation, recognised as an NGO in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations. 

“The MMUN programme involves year-long classroom and after school study, participation in virtual working sessions and social meet-ups with peers from across the globe, and then culminates in a multi-day global education simulation experience that enables our students in Grade Six to learn about the operations of the UN and its role,” explains Karen Fabbri, MBTS Grade Six teacher. “Our students all work very hard throughout the year, researching their respective countries and topics, creating display boards, putting together position statements, and overall immersing themselves in the project,” she adds.

MMUN provides students with the opportunity to 1) learn about cultures, governments and peoples of nations throughout the world, 2) apply research, writing and communications skills, 3) develop critical thinking, problem solving and evaluative skills, 4) debate current global issues and world problems, 5) practice and use leadership skills in real life global situations, and 6) understand the need for peace and conflict resolution throughout the world.

“MBTS has been participating in the MMUN programme since 2017,” Debbie Thompson, MBTS Principal and Owner, recalls. “Students get to choose if they want to participate in the enrichment programme, and I am happy to say that over the years very few have opted out as the students themselves recognise this as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The experience is also really rewarding for us, as teachers and administrators, because we are privileged to discover different facets of the students who attend the conference, so it’s always a new experience for all of us,” she adds.

This year’s MBTS delegates, made up of six students for a total of three pairs, were assigned three countries- the Comoros, Kenya and Peru- and researched the topics of cyber security and privacy, human rights and the environment, rights of indigenous people, reducing space threats and promoting international cooperation. Each pair of MBTS students joined peers from 13 other nations in groups of 60-100 students to present their findings, discuss main points from their research and come up with resolutions for all delegations to vote on. “Because it is a Montessori system, the main aim of delegate sessions is to reach consensus, so the delegates have to discuss, negotiate, persuade and find common ground ” Ms. Fabbri adds.

After undertaking the work in their committee sessions, and finalising their resolutions, six representatives from each committee are chosen to present key resolutions, speak to the committee’s process and update the plenary on the final decision made by the committee at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). Three delegates from the Cayman Islands- Gia Hew O’Campo, Mae Ferreira and Persey Taber- were chosen by their global peers to present at the UNGA. 

“As parents who have accompanied our kids all these months, we are very proud of everything they have accomplished,” begins Carolina Ferreira, parent and chaperone. “Seeing them at the UN General Assembly, knowing what it means, especially for us as Caymanians, that our children are able to stand where leaders of the world have stood, that they are able to see the possibility for themselves of what they can do, there really aren’t words to describe that feeling.”

This year’s MMUN conference also included a song-writing component where chosen applicants were able to work with Chad Harper of Hip Hop Saves Lives, a social entrepreneurship NPO that educates youth about social issues via hip hop. MBTS student Leo Mildenberger, an up and coming drummer in his own right, was one of those selected to participate. Along with completing the entire delegate agenda, Leo also participated in extra song writing sessions and was part of the group that performed the song at the session’s closing ceremony. 

Reflecting on their experience, Shane O’Reilly provided the following advice to any future delegate who might be scared of delivering their speech during their committee session: “Don’t worry about it; when you start speaking you’ll want to say more and more” while Joshua Goodfellow added “and pull the mic closer to you!”

“As a school we are very proud of the fact that our children continue to engage in this programme, and that essentially it has become a rite of passage for our students during their last year,” Ms. Thompson states. “Students in Grades Four and Five not only get to see the work that the Grade Sixes put into it, but they then get to hear about their experience after they return and it creates a sense of excitement for them, and even helps some set goals for what they want to accomplish when their time comes. There is something for everyone in the programme, and many ways for them to engage, so we will continue to engage with this programme for as long as we can.”

All the resolutions that were drafted by the MMUN student delegates in both the New York City and Rome conferences will be compiled by the MMUN team and presented to the United Nations as a way to promote youth participation in decision making. 


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