Stepping into the shoes — and sitting in the seats — of United Nations ambassadors in New York, sixth and seventh grade students from the Montessori School of Ojai will fight for the interests of Bolivia in April.
“When I first found out we were doing Bolivia I was like, ‘Oh no, where is that!’” said student John Wing. “I thought it was in Africa, but I have learned so much about the history of the country now.” Showing off some of that newfound knowledge, he added, “It’s named after Simón Bolívar; he helped a lot of South America gain independence from Spain.”
“The current president is the first indigenous president,” chimed in Jefferson Beckham, another student. Brianna Ames added, “Big corporations are trying to run him out because he favors small farmers.”
Beckham unveiled a photo of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. “He’s from South Korea,” Erson said.
To help create identification with Bolivian culture, the class even held a Bolivian feast. “In Bolivia, instead of drinking soda out of a can, they use a bag because they have to return the bottles, so we drank soda out of bags, and we ate sorbet,” said Ames. Beckham added, “We ate macaroons too.” Student Cyrus Roesing said, “An original food we ate was mashed potatoes, lettuce, peanut sauce, tomatoes, and hard-boiled eggs all put together — it’s really common there, it’s like their mac ‘n’ cheese.”
Much of the students’ enthusiasm about their newfound insight into Bolivian history and culture is that they’ll get to use it. Ames, sitting on the Human Rights Committee, said its focus is on “child soldiers and the rights of indigenous people. There are an estimated 300,000 child soldiers.” Wing added, “Learning about the UN is a way we can stop things like that from happening.”
Student Sydney Eads is on the Food and Agriculture Organization, and said its focus is on “food security. We want to secure food in countries that don’t have a lot.”
To further fuel their excitement, the students have the testimonies of past Montessori School of Ojai representatives—like Maddie Keyes-Levine, whose country was Belgium. “I was able to meet with the Belgium Mission in New York and was able to ask questions and receive answers from the diplomats that represent Belgium at the United Nations,” she said. “Belgium was recommending that the International Criminal Court issue an arrest warrant for Omar Bashir, President of Sudan, for war crimes. I represented this position at the MMUN. While we were there, the International Criminal Court did issue an arrest warrant for Omar Bashir. It was a great experience.”
“Going to the conference in New York was the best because of all the kids I met from all over the world,” said another student, Holland Eads. “Even though we didn’t know each other we had been learning the same things for months, so we felt like we knew each other.” Eads’s positive experience is a motivation for her younger sister, Sydney Eads, who is to attend this April. “I’ve heard a lot about it,” Sydney Eads said.
The students are also aware of the role that their school’s namesake, Dr. Maria Montessori, played in the United Nations. “She helped with the League of Nations, and that idea was a precursor to the United Nations — she was a big supporter of the UN,” said Wing. “It’s nice we’re a school named after her and that we get to do this.”
A division of Model United Nations, Montessori Model United Nations is specific to students of Montessori Schools. From the website for Montessori Model United Nations: “Through the process of role-playing, each student becomes a delegate of a selected nation. They write, present and debate issues affecting their nation and peoples of the world. By assuming the character of a citizen of their selected country they fully develop an understanding of the needs of a people and the importance of accepting differences.”
These Ojai students look forward to doing just that. “It’s really cool we get to try and keep the peace,” said Roesing.