What role do countries across the globe have in protecting individuals fleeing war and conflict? Are there limits to free speech in an age of terrorism and the internet? How can women achieve full equity across the globe? Middle school representatives came from the four corners of Connecticut to tackle these most urgent issues facing the world in the fifth annual Kingswood Oxford Model UN Conference for Middle Schools (KOMUN) on Saturday, March 11. Since its founding in March 2012, KOMUN has attracted hundreds of students and their teachers from a wide range of public, private, charter, magnet and parochial schools throughout the state.
Founded by a KO history teacher and Model UN advisor Stacey Savin, KOMUN introduces students in grades 6,7 and 8 to global issues. The experience challenges young students to work as a team to resolve these concerns. In the process of understanding complex global problems, students develop a highly developed sense of collaboration, one of the most essential 21st century skills. There’s plenty of negotiating, listening and critical thinking so that all the students’ unique intelligence is activated. Students recognize how they think and how others think so they can resolve conflicts, increase productivity and creativity.
Savin asserts that middle school students are capable of debating sophisticated world issues. She said, “"Under the guidance of our Upper School Model UN committee chairs, the students came up with practical and creative solutions to global problems at the top of the world's agenda and headlining the news.” She continues, “KOMUN 2017 was a big success as a result of two things: first, excellent preparation and participation by the delegates; and second, the phenomenal job of KO's Upper School committee chairs, who ran the all-day sessions in each of the committee rooms. By all accounts, they made the experience both enlightening and fun. KO alumni, Ben Waldman '16, who is now part of Yale Model UN's leadership team, also came back to volunteer as a KOMUN co-chair.
Prior to the event, student teams are assigned to a given country such as Pakistan, Australia, China, Ethiopia and El Salvador so that a wide range of cultures and viewpoints are represented. Each topic consists of a dossier of information and historical background as well as over 20 questions for the students to consider from: How does your country control its borders? to Does your population have the right to hold demonstrations? Students assume the role of the delegates of their given country and argue their country’s position on a topic.
At the closing ceremonies each committee singled out delegates for awards. There were award winners from many different schools, including seven from Kingswood Oxford Middle School. The KO winners were Sun Min Cho '22 (Best Delegate, Security Council # 1, representing France), Julia Lantner '22 (Outstanding Delegate, Security Council # 3, representing Uruguay), Brandon DeLucia '21 (Outstanding Delegate, representing France, UNHCR on Gender Equality # 1), Jordon Korn '22 (Honorable Delegate, representing Ethiopia, UNHCR on Gender Equality # 2), Henry Mandell '21 (Best Delegate, representing France, UNHRC: Free Speech in the Age of Terrorism and the Internet # 1), Patrick Dallahan '22 (Honorable Delegate, representing Ethiopia, Free Speech in the Age of Terrorism and the Internet # 2) and Ignacio Feged '23 (representing France, Free Speech in the Age of Terrorism and the Internet).
Savin credits KOMUN’s success to the dozens of Connecticut middle school teachers who have brought delegations. "They are the ones who wanted their students to have this opportunity, who took it upon themselves to create and teach Model UN programs in their own schools, and whose programs are now respected and sought after-activities. With Connecticut companies playing such a big role in globalization, our state is very lucky to have such devoted teachers. I couldn't do KOMUN without them."