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Global Classrooms:
Expanding Its Reach in New Ways

By Ambassador William Luers

A priority for our society must certainly be to prepare young Americans to understand the world  in which we live, the threats to our globe and the uncanny richness and variety of the human experience  across nations. Young Americans should  be prepared for the impact of globalization on  their lives and for the opportunities that can be  gained from acting as a global citizen.

The primary objective of the United Nations  Association of the USA is to educate Americans  about the United Nations. Our educational role  has become most methodical, and perhaps most  meaningful, in our effort to build into urban  public school systems the roots for a sustainable  and expanding Model UN educational program.  We call this effort Global Classrooms, since the  work is primarily in the classroom, and since it  helps young people learn about the world, conflict  resolution and global citizenship in ways  that few other programs in the public school system  can. Like the other UNA-USA educational  ambitions, we want to engage and excite young  people about the world and the crucial role of  the UN in that world. Much of the initial work  in developing the US program has been made  possible through the guidance and support of the  Annenberg Foundation.

Growing Global Classrooms? We have been  expanding our Global Classrooms educational  program for the past eight years and are now  taking it in new directions. We want to transform  significantly the reach of Global Classrooms to  more students and make this expansion sustainable.  Our core objective from the beginning has  been to bring the Model UN experience to children  in urban public school districts in major US  cities. The key components of the program have  been our unique curricular materials, our teacher  training programs and the Model UN conference  that we organize for our students in each city.  Global Classrooms’ curricula cover conflict resolution,  sustainable development, human rights,  and our newest curriculum being tested this year  is the Economics of Globalization.

To date we have: (1) tens of thousands of young  people across the United States who have become  engaged in understanding the world through  Global Classrooms; (2) more than 800 teachers  trained in our curricular material; (3) another  800 university students who have become Model  UN Conference Staff who help as mentors and  student leaders for participants in our Model UN  conferences, and (4) for each conference in 10  US cities between 200 to 2300 students participating  annually. As a supplement to our expanding  US program, our visionary Global Sponsor,  Merrill Lynch, has encouraged our expansion to  capitals around the world. We now have Global  Classrooms programs in 11 cities: Beijing, Beirut,  Berlin, Johannesburg, London, Madrid, Mexico  City, Mumbai, New Delhi, Saõ Paulo and Tel  Aviv. The impressive aspect of this global reach  has been to build the concept of global citizenship  using the same curricular material and standardized  Model UN conferences everywhere that  are not America-centric culturally.

The next step in our work beyond US borders  will be to link up our international participants  with our US students in unusual ways that will  enrich the experience for all participants in our  program. Global Classrooms is becoming a globally  recognized program. This was always anticipated  as the real payoff for American children,  which is to link them ever more directly to that  broader world.

New Directions. Our vision now will be to  achieve a broader and more sustainable community  commitment to this program in all of our  cities, and a more effective way of linking our  expanding international community of global  citizens with our American students.

First, we are linking our international students  with our American students through two  important initiatives: Internet Connection. We will  be expanding our use of the internet for Global  Classrooms and in the first six months of 2008,  we will launch an upgraded website and a new  design for Global Classrooms that will enable us to  increase the scope of real internet interaction among  our students world wide, including enhanced online  simulated Model UN experiences.

Hub City International Conferences. We are  beginning this year to expand the number of  international students who join our conferences  in three major cities—New York, Los Angeles,  and Chicago. In Los Angeles, the city itself is  getting behind a Los Angeles Pacific Rim Model  UN Conference that will concentrate on economic  and trade issues bringing students and teachers  from the Pacific. This will be a unique regional  experience with LA County and city support. In  Chicago, which hopes to be the home of the  Olympics in 2016, there is a high commitment to  be a global city. Chicago supports the idea of having  an international Model UN program that will  attract students from our cities around the world  to develop relations with students in the Chicago  community and enlarge Chicago’s development as  a city of the world. In New York, we aim to greatly  improve our annual international conference at the  UN for over 2300 students annually making it the  premier event for high schools in the our network  of Global Classrooms programs worldwide.

Secondly, our goal is to develop strong community  support for Global Classrooms in each  of our American cities. As we reduce funding  from our national programs, we expect our Hub  city approach in Chicago, New York, and Los  Angeles will help us expand the community commitment  to the program. We are also expanding  the participation in our annual conferences in  each city to include students from private schools  and suburban public schools on a paying basis  to help cover the local cost of the conferences.  Finally, we are asking students who travel from  around the US and from abroad to raise money  for their travel while we seek support from local  corporations to fund our greatly expanding international  exchange program.

Thirdly, we plan to renew our programs to support  world wide Model UN programs and continue  to be the central repository of information about  the scope of the Model UN experience and sharing  experiences with Model UN groups who have not  been part of the Global Classrooms initiative.

At a time when international education for  urban public school students in the US is decreasing  due to pressures in the public school system  for ever greater concentration “on the basics,”  Global Classrooms is bringing excitement to students  across the United States who are interested  in learning about and experiencing the world.  And in doing so, it is building an appreciation for  the role of the UN in that world. #

Ambassador William Luers is the president of  UNA-USA.



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