Building a Model United Nations team for a high school can be a rewarding yet daunting challenge. There is so much to learn and so much to accomplish throughout the year that it may not seem worth your time. As you proceed, you will see just how valuable this program is to your students’ skills. You may have made the choice to start this team within your school. Maybe you were involved in a MUN program during your high school or college years. Or perhaps school administration thought a MUN team would be a good idea and tapped you to sponsor it. There is a good chance they were not sure how much work is involved. No matter how you came to be a Model UN team sponsor, we want to provide you with all the resources you need to get through the entire process. The first step is building and maintaining a successful Model UN team.
Understanding Your Goal
Model UN clubs generally have one, or more, of the following purposes:
- Weekly meetings to develop skills
- Attend conferences
- Host a conference for other schools to attend
- A mix of the above
Some clubs meet weekly without going anywhere and only practicing with in club simulations. Some clubs built a team for one conference and disband, with minimal preparation before. Some clubs host a conference and the entire team exists just to produce that event. All options have benefits, though only the weekly meetings truly develop the skills Model UN offers. If you are limited on funding, the weekly meetings, with possibly one relatively close conference, might be the best option to get started. You also don’t need to decide immediately. The key is to eventually understand what type of club you are building and to create the best program for it.
Building the Team
Building a strong and committed team will take more than just the backing of the school administration. If you want to create a sustainable program that will be able to perform year after year, you should involve the parents and local community. Set up an email list of the parents of the students you recruit and other strong school boosters. If your school allows funds to be solicited for specific clubs and programs, you can send out a proposal similar to the one you used for school administration. Let them know the benefits of having a Model UN and ask them if they are able to contribute. You will be surprised how quickly even little donations add up. You should also try contacting local universities or community colleges. They will often support Model UN teams in various ways. If one of the local colleges its own Model UN program, you may be able to have their team come meet your high school group. You can work out a great long-term partnership this was that will benefit the school and students.
A Model UN team may be something similar to other clubs or activities your school already offers. Maybe there is a Mock Trial team or a Debate Team already established at the school. Check with the sponsors of those teams and try to model your structure after them. Once you get the approval of your administration, or once they give you the task of starting a team, you will have to begin recruitment. There will be a longer article focusing specifically on recruitment which you can find titled How to Recruit Delegates for Your Model UN Club.
Recruitment will be important every year. Your most important base will be getting freshmen on board, as you will build your team around them as each year passes. They are the backbone of the team that will move into leadership roles. Every year will see them gain more and more experience.
Before you go on to the other articles, you should check out this video of a small simulation of a committee session. You can use this video to show your students what to expect from the year to come:
The first thing to recognize is that a Model UN team at a high school can bring the school prestige. With a dedicated group of students and the help of administration, Model UN can be something your school becomes known for. You may want to consider turning your MUN team into an actual school club. Sometimes schools will have an easier time funding something that is designated as a club. There are usually strict rules as to what kind of groups within a school can use certain funds. Check with administration for your best options. If you want to start this team and do not yet have approval from your administration, you should propose something like a miniature business plan outlining the benefits the Model UN team can bring the students and the school. We will provide you with a sample proposal letter here. New teachers, do not panic. We will do everything we can to help you with this. It may seem like there is so much to learn but if you focus on doing it in steps and not all at once, you will be fine.
Finding The Right Conference
You need to find out which conference or conferences you plan to attend for the year. One or two conferences for a new team is probably all you will be able to handle, as there is so much planning involved for every trip. If you are in the United States many conferences can be found on this list. This is not a complete list, so be sure to search for conferences in your area as well. For non US based teachers, we suggest using internet search and word of mouth. For more detail on how to choose a conference check out our article on Choosing the Right Conference.
Once you select a conference, you need to contact them as soon as possible. You will want to send in the application for your school. Most of the time, the application will ask for how many countries you want to represent. What this means is that, depending on the number of students in your MUN club, you may want to represent more than one. Usually they will let you know how many committee members are required for each team so you can plan accordingly. They will allow you to select from your preference of countries. The earlier you apply in the year, the more likely you are to receive the country you apply for. If you wait too late, you will end up representing a country nobody else wanted to represent. That being said, it is not always best to represent a well-known or large country, especially at your first conference. The expectations are high, especially for countries on the UN Security Council. You will also find it a rewarding experience for both you and your students to take on a lesser known country. You will end up learning much more about unknown areas and how they interact with the global community.
Once you figure out what conference you will be attending, you need to go ahead and locate accommodations nearby. Most MUN conferences will provide teams with a list of hotels and restaurants that are located close to the actual conference site. You also need to arrange for transportation to the conference. Depending on the distance, you will likely need a bus. If the conference is not too far away, your cheaper option will be to use a school district activity bus. Remember, if you are not authorized to drive the busses, you will have to pay a driver. If the conference is farther away then you may want to look into more comfortable, yet more expensive charter busses. You will need to begin seriously speaking to administration about funding.
Building a Model UN team can have difficult aspects but overall it is one of the more rewarding programs that exists in a high school. There are also many rewarding moments along the way as you watch your students develop. The key is to remember that you aren’t inventing the wheel and the process of drafting, teaching and maintaining a team will become more simple each time you do it.