Everybody says middle schoolers are...a handful. And hey, I’ll be the first to tell you about how destructive and volatile they can be even with everyday simple machines.
But in my book, they are the most exciting, delightful little diamonds-in-the-rough on God’s green earth and the Junior United Nations Assembly of Alabama is just the place to see them shine.
January 29-30 I had the privilege of seeing their hard work and effort come to fruition. Held at Birmingham-Southern College, this year JUNA featured 49 nations, represented by approximately 250 6th-8th graders from schools all over Alabama.
19 of those sweet angel babies are mine, and my, oh, my, did they shine. Our three teams standing up for Australia, Liberia, and Morocco were especially noteworthy because they were the only teams from any of the 50+ schools in our district.
In their respective committees, our young ladies and gentlemen spoke out to plea for UN assistance for issues in their nations such as child enslavement, water pollution, and ebola relief. They demonstrated proficiency in student leadership, initiative, public speaking, courteous debate, understanding of world resources and issues, and creative problem-solving.
The first day of the two-part conference included students greeting one another in native tongues, (some incorporating sign language), taking on the language, dress, and culture of their nations. After all the pretty pleasantries, they broke out into pre-assigned committees involving UN topical issues such as education, the environment, health, poverty, disease outbreaks, trafficking, etc.
Within each committee, two to three students presented the resolution that was written by the entire team/delegation in the months prior to conference; this involved a series of three speeches. These students then fielded questions from other students...and here is where the rubber meets the road...they must be intimately familiar with their nation’s issues and even that of their geographical neighbors in order to adequately defend the resolution. Beyond that, they must have oratory skill and charisma to field questions and respond to them to adequately defends the resolution.
Every delegate (soon will change to each nation) votes on each resolution in the small committee room, and the 2-3 nations receiving the most votes from each committee will then pass out of committee. Those nations will have the opportunity to repeat their same presentation in General assembly, taking questions now from a wider variety of nations.
There is a public “roll call” after each presentation, and the nations vote yes, no, or abstain. If they have more yes votes than no, they are passed by the general assembly. This is the hallmark of teams who are well prepared, have researched well, and have a well-honed ability to communicate articulately and with enthusiasm and to respond to questions courteously and effectively.
Awards given at the conclusion of the conference include recognition of leadership, display board, costume, resolution, spirit, best nations, individual leadership as delegates, and preparedness. This fun, celebratory time isn't the goal of the JUNA experience, but it does put a nice little bow on things.
As for my sweet little team, we are gearing up for a fun field trip to deepen our study of global cultures, but we are already looking forward to next year's JUNA in Alabama!