Eagle County students practice diplomacy first hand at Model UN
Participants get to stretch their imagination, engage in rigorous competition and gain valuable life skills
Last week, middle school students from across Eagle County Schools participated in Model U.N., where the kids had an outlet to practice skills like diplomacy, leadership and critical thinking.
After months of preparation, local middle schoolers had a district-wide competition on Thursday. For the past decade, the county’s middle schoolers had been participating annually in the regional Model U.N. event in Steamboat Springs. However, due to COVID-19, the event has been held as a district competition in recent years.
The event included middle school students from Berry Creek, Gypsum Creek, Eagle Valley, Vail Ski and Snowboard Academy and Homestake Peak.
At Model U.N., these students select a country to represent and focus on a number of global readiness skills to research and think of creative solutions for their representative’s country’s issues. They can either craft resolutions that enrich programs already happening in that country, or come up with new, innovative programs. Then, students collaborate between other countries to propose, discuss, revise and reach resolutions, which they will ultimately vote on.
Some of the skills gained include critical thinking, collaboration across networks, leading by influence, agility and adaptability, initiative and entrepreneurialism, oral and written communication, analyzing information as well as curiosity and imagination to problem solve. Plus, overall, it gives students a degree of political literacy with which they can look at the world.
“It is really important for our students to think in a global manner when it comes to political issues,” said Marjorie Oyler, the secondary education gifted and talented specialist for Berry Creek Middle School, Battle Mountain High School and Red Canyon East High School.
“Our students either find a country, or an issue, they are passionate about and think of solutions,” she added. “This promotes student’s critical thinking skills because we really encourage them to think outside of what they may be reading in the news. We guide students in viewing their chosen countries’ issue in the lens of a resident to that country, versus an United States citizen lens,”
Throughout her last seven years as a gifted education specialist in the district, Oyler has been involved on some level with Model U.N. This year, she’s supporting the Berry Creek coach and students. And during this time, Oyler has seen students grow and evolve through participation in Model U.N.
“This competition pushes students out of their comfort zone and really helps them question even their own views on big issues,” Oyler said.
Teaching students about global politics, and engaging them in a format like Model U.N. helps prepare students for a future in which they stay engaged and maybe even tackle big global issues.
“As we all know, history and political issues repeat,” Oyler said. “The more that students are exposed to the pressing topics around our world, the more empathetic they will be to the struggles people face on a daily basis, not only worldwide, but also in the United States.”
Model U.N. is just one of many academic and real-world inspired competitions that fit within Eagle County Schools’ exploratory classes for secondary students. These classes use project-based learning to develop skills and interests through a variety of ways.
Additional activities and competitions include academic competitions such as the Science Olympiad, the National History Competition and the Scholastic Art competition in addition to local competitions like Project Funway and the Bookworm writing competition.
The exploratory classes are open to “any advanced student or student who applies for the class and gets accepted,” Oyler said. This also includes the district’s gifted and talented students, which on average across the schools in the district, make up 20% of the exploratory class, she added.
For gifted students, and for Model U.N. specifically, Oyler said the competition complements their skills and interests as they are “extremely empathetic and care about world issues.”
While all of Eagle County Schools’ middle schools participated in Model U.N., only Berry Creek exploratory classes are competing in the academic competitions this year. This year, multiple Berry Creek students will compete in the state Science Olympiad on April 2 in Colorado Springs. In the Math Counts competition in February, the school placed in the top 70% of all Colorado middle school teams.
“Our students are just as academically advanced as the students attending STEM and Gifted schools in the Front Range,” Oyler said. “Having an exploratory class exposes our best and brightest students to local, regional and state academic competitions. When we bring Eagle County Schools students to the regional competitions, they get exposure to advanced academics on a state level. This helps prepare them for rigorous classes in high school and beyond.”
Reporter Ali Longwell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.