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Model United Nations (MUN) #FirstforFife Report: 5 things we can all learn from 11 year olds

On St. Andrew's Day, 30th November 2017, United Nations House Scotland (UNHS) hosted the first ever MUN (Model United Nations) for Primary Schools in Fife #FirstforFife, at the prestigious Broomhall House.

If you have never heard of MUN before, fear not! You have come to the right place. MUN is part of a Global Citizenship educational programme where students role-play as country delegates, debating and seeking to solve global issues. The event saw the coming together of 5 primary schools, 30 kids aged 10-12 acting as country representatives discussing the issue of ‘how to solve the Global Migrant Crisis’. The countries listed were USA, Canada, UK, Germany, Syria and Bangladesh, with 5 pupils representing each country. As the day started, all were nervous and did not know what to expect; although they came extremely prepared to debate on immigration. By the end of the day, it was amazing to see the group dynamics and how well they had all bonded as a team.

However, whilst we could tell you the intricate details on how it all went, we rather tell you 5 things we observed and what we can all learn from 10 year olds.

1) Choice, choice and more choice: A recurring theme present during the debates, discussion and persuasion for resolution of their country’s amendment was how they wanted ‘the freedom of choice’ for the citizens of their delegated country. ‘If they want to’, ‘if they are happy with it’, ‘you can’t make someone do what they don’t want to do’. In these seemingly bleak times, it was comforting to hear the innocence of children come through on the highly contentious topic of immigration. The debate focused, for example, on whether migrants should be allowed to come into countries with a wider economy. So this saw the US defending why migrants should not be allowed, and Canada defending the benefits of letting migrants in. Yet no matter which side of the fence they were on, they all wanted migrants and citizens alike to have the freedom of choice in the decisions that were made. If only all politicians thought like this.

2) Good Sports: What was very interesting to see was how nervous they were at first when they entered the room (or ‘The General Assembly’), yet mixed up nicely with others from different schools, children whom they had never met before, worked as a team, and at the end of the day got really enthusiastic about their role as country delegates. I mean, there were points where they got so stuck in we had to remind them they were Scottish and not Presidents of the countries they were representing. Their willingness to get involved and participate was definitely our top highlight! Adults have a lot to learn from such enthusiastic attitudes. Even when in doubt, even when nervous, get stuck in, do your best and ‘smash’ it!

3) Confidence, Thinking on their feet and Critically thinking: It was inspiring to see the level of confidence that came through when these young pupils argued for their country’s amendment. The counter arguments were very well thought through. For example, when talking about Syrian migrants, team USA persuaded the general assembly to support them in getting funds to send the migrants back to their countries, supporting them in their own countries ‘if they wanted to’ stay in Syria or if they preferred to stay in the USA ‘they can too, it is their choice’. However, team USA clearly stated this would kick-start ‘only when the conflict had ended’. Team Syria then argued back stating, ‘how would you know when the war ends?’ implying what indicators are being used to measure the war ending? They also pointed out the loophole in the USA argument, stating ‘how much exactly would you be willing to give migrant families? And how would this be allocated?’ I do not know about you but this level of critical thinking for 10 year olds, is something we can all learn from. They presented themselves as politicians in the making, and personally, we were proud of the critical engagement present, better than most politicians we know today. President Trump should watch and learn!

4) Judgment Free: Another observation that surprised us throughout the day was how ‘judgment free’ the space was. It was more like a ‘safe space’ with no questions deemed ‘too stupid’! No ‘side-eyes’ given, no heckles, just safe debates and discussions going on. We definitely could do with more of this in our workplaces today.

5) Gender Dynamics: You may be wondering this seems all great, but surely not everything went smoothly, what can we learn moving forward? Well, you will be wrong. Things went so well for the first ever MUN primary school conference. We all left beaming - that is, teachers, students, mentors, UNHS staff and our host Lord Charles Bruce! However you would not be wrong in stating there are still many things to learn from the #FirstforFife conference, one of them being gender dynamics. Whilst it was great to see pupils stand up in front of their peers and argue their amendment on behalf of their delegated country, most who stood up where the boys, whilst girls tended to take a back seat. Although girls joined in the discussion, especially when posing questions to the delegates on their amendment, there was still a noticeable gender division.

We need to keep pushing! It was great to see an even division of boys and girls attendees, but we need to keep pushing. Pushing our girls, to step out of their comfort zone, pushing our girls to speak louder, pushing our girls to know that it is ok to not take a back seat, the driver seat is also available for them. We need to keep pushing. If we take this stand in our homes, in our schools, and even in our workplaces, we would start to see a young generation of girls feeling ‘ok’; OK to be bold and courageous to speak out and get their opinions heard not just reside ‘only’ in the backseat.

The MUN #FirstforFife conference ended with happy kids, presented with certificates by Lord Charles Bruce, in recognition of their hard work and the varied skills they showed on such a special day.

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