Creating a Model United Nations Team is one thing. Creating one that functions as an actual team is another. There are so many things to consider when planning a Model UN team. Remember, you will be travelling with these students to one or more conferences a year. To build and maintain a sustainable team that lasts throughout the year is a big task. It is a delicate task.
Travel Team 101
As the Model UN team sponsor, you will have to dance a delicate balance when speaking to administration. In the article titled How to Build Your High School MUN Program, we discussed sending a proposal letter requesting to have a MUN program at your school. If this has already been established or you have been asked to sponsor the team by administration, then you will need to establish funding for the conferences. Asking school administration for money is never an easy task. It will be easier if they have requested you to create the team because they will have, theoretically, already thought out the expenses involved. If the team was approved at your request, then you will want them to know early in the year that you will need funds for a successful program. If you know of any other local schools that have a MUN program, contact their school sponsor and ask how much they typically spend on their program. Better yet would be to find out what conferences they attend and discuss sharing expenses with them. You would be able to share transportation and accommodation costs.
Getting parent and guardian support is also mentioned in the article above. You may have to require students to pay a certain amount of money to participate in the team to help cover the expenses. This would not be out of the ordinary for school clubs, as many have a fee involved. Be sure that you do not set the fee too high so it would prohibit lower income students from participating. Have a way to ensure that lower income students do not get left out by speaking to administration about covering their costs. Besides a fee, you may have some parents who are willing to help cover some of the expenses. There may also be some businesses that will help. Check out which businesses already support your school and make inquiries from there.
The Benefit of Partnerships
A possible partnership with local colleges or universities can be beneficial. They often partner with local schools with teams and clubs such as this to extend their outreach to potential students. If they have a college Model UN team, reach out to the college staff member in charge. This would be a great opportunity to have the college students interact with your students and teach them points and motions, position paper guidelines, and tips for resolution writing. Later in the year, closer to the conference, you can also have joint simulations with the two teams. Could you imagine how much more prepared your students will be at a conference if they have been practicing with college level information?
Selecting Students for the Travel Team
With team creation, you need to make sure you are selecting students who really want to be a part of the Model UN. You want to have a process in place to weed out the ones who are there solely for the resume building. If your school allows it, you can opt for tryouts. This may not be an option for some schools as they will not want to exclude anyone who really does want to participate. As mentioned in the article titled How to Recruit Delegates for Your Model UN Club, you should plan your initial meetings strategically. Think about assigning a one-page paper during the first introductory meeting to give the students a chance to explain why they want to be a part of the Model UN. Some students will realize right away that this is not going to be something they can simply show up for. They will have to participate. Some will not complete the essay or show up at the next meeting. Don’t worry about what to do with students who you know will not perform well in public speaking or who refuse to get in front of a crowd. We will share some tips with how to assign them tasks below.
Some students will stand out immediately as ones who love being in front of people and can handle debate with ease. Be sure to nurture and grow these students, but also be aware of the ones who don’t stand out right away. Some will take longer to open up and release their potential. Always encourage them and attempt to get them involved in the exercises you use from the article titled MUN Classroom Activities.
Don’t worry about students who really resist public speaking. They can still become valuable team members. While they may not be the ones you will use as delegates on committees, you can create positions such as researchers and runners. Researchers can help committees get ready for their position papers and they will be invaluable on conference days in the command center you set up. Your runners will be able to get information from the researchers to the committee delegates as they work tirelessly on resolutions in their caucuses. There may be some students who are more comfortable with administrative sort of positions at first. These students may turn into strong delegates on your team the next year. By finding a job that all students can feel useful in, you will help keep jealousy at bay. Everyone will feel useful throughout the year as you plan for the conference and all students will be gaining skills they will take with them into the future.
Preparing the Travel Team
There are many types of things you need to prepare your students for. Making sure they are familiar with the core classes seen in the HelpMyMUN guide index (such as research, speeches, writing resolutions etc.) , is a good start.
It will help to not have to cover everything at once. In order to prepare your student for the conference, you should scaffold the material. This will make it easier to learn, both for you and your students.
Once you have taught them all of the core classes, and the are familiar with the rules of procedure and basic workings of Model UN, the next thing you need to do is teach them about the United Nations. You do not want to spend more than one or two meetings on UN history and functions because they will learn this continually as they move through the process of preparation. As soon as you receive your country assignments you will want to begin heavily researching. This could be early in the school year. Teach your students to use reputable sources as they begin to explore their country. Wikipedia is an okay starting point, but they should not rely on it alone for fact-based research. While Wikipedia is the most quickly updated, it often give information without significant detail. It can also be altered or be found to have misleading or false information. This is rare, given the amount of editors, but take precaution. When you decide which students will go into what committees, they first need to educate themselves with what their committee is responsible for and how it fits into the overall organization of the United Nations.
It is important to have the travel team be at least familiar with all the major United Nations bodies and its principal agencies. You will want to spend time helping your students research how their country interacts with certain issues in the global community so that they are prepared for writing their position papers and resolutions. BBC World News is a reputable news organization that covers global affairs. They have extensive archives where your students will be able to find news about their country and some of the issues at hand.
The final outcome of all this research will be something called a position paper. Here you can find our guide to learn more about what a position paper is and should contain. As you can see, these papers are an important part of the conference. In the process of writing them, your students will become very familiar with their country and the UN as a whole. Not only is the position paper a part of the conference, but it prepares them for the actual work they will be doing when you get there. Many conferences will require you to submit the papers before the actual conference so they can be judged for awards and preparation. Be sure to note any deadlines so you will not fall behind.
You will want to start to show your students what a good resolution looks like. Resolutions are the outcome of UN committees. When the positions have been discussed and debated, resolutions are statements of intention to handle the problem being addressed. It is also good to access the UN’s page of all the resolutions they have passed. If you go to our article titled MUN Classroom Activities, you will find some activities you can use to prepare your students for resolution writing. Resolutions typically will not be written until the conference day, but your students need to be well versed in the type of wording and language used because it is very specific.
At the conference, the committee sessions will be controlled by Roberts Rules of Order, or a variation of controlled debate. Speaking during a committee session is controlled so that chaos is kept to a minimum. Each committee will be controlled by someone who is designated the Chairperson. To excel here delegates should try to effectively use points and motions. You do not want students to show up at the conference having never practiced proper procedures. You can view a mock simulation here:
When it comes to proper committee procedures such as points and motions, nothing will teach your students like experiencing the actual thing. When they get to a conference for the first time it will be awkward at first, but they will catch on quickly. At the conference, be ready to calm any nervous students. Assure them that it is okay to make mistakes and to try their best. They will be professionals after the first hour. Just think about how much easier it will be the next year when you have a group of students who have already been to a conference.
Always be aware of team morale. The year is long, but the conference will bring everyone together when they find out just how much they have learned. You must also be aware of any problems that arise between individual team members. Little arguments that go unresolved can slowly unravel an entire team. If you sense a problem between a few students, get them together separately from the rest of the team and get to the bottom of it. Most of the time the issue is minor and can be resolved with a few words from their teacher.
If you treat the Model UN travel team as a learning experience for you and your students and not as a chore, you will have a remarkable year. Whether or not the students win any awards at the conference is irrelevant and you need to remind them of that. If a good feeling and good balance is maintained, you will have offered the students a great experience and hopefully have set up the team to be successful for years to come. Follow these guidelines and remember that managing a travel team has a learning curb. Relax, enjoy the trip and remember that your next year will be easier and the students will be better prepared.