Sometimes when I do something really fun and interesting, I like to post about it here, even though it is completely not baby-photo related. (Like that trip a couple of years ago that I took to Houston to take family photos for the victims of Hurricane Harvey) I like to do it just so you guys know more about who I am as a person, and the things that warm my heart.
Note, though, that all these photos were shot on my iPhone - blurry as heck, y'all. But the storytelling's fun.
So sit back and settle in - here's what's warms my heart this week. Our two daughters are Montessori kids, we love it, we drink the Kool-Aid big time, and our oldest daughter is graduating from the 8th grade and leaving the school this year (wipes tear)... and the icing on the school's cake is that she got to do the Montessori Model United Nations program in both 7th and 8th grade. And this year I got to chaperone the group's trip to the MMUN (yay!). As I type this, I'm sitting in a Times Square hotel room late in the day of the 2nd day of negotiations, and I've spent a lot of the last few days posting photos and videos for the parents of the other kids on my personal Instagram... but I realized it'd be nice if I compiled them somewhere so there'd be a real, robust summary of the experience that'd live on my blog for the future. So I'm taking my posts and stories from the past few days and putting them here for you, one by one. I'll keep updating the blog later today and tomorrow so it's a nice complete story of the trip.
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 5th
We hopped on a bus Wednesday morning and made our way into NYC. We landed around 2pm and shot a proof of life picture for the other parents:
After we settled into the hotel rooms, we got to explore Times Square a bit... take group photos in front of the teenage girl happy place, Forever 21...
And then get the whole group in on it - smiles much more evident now:
Have to admit I adored being a fly on the wall once we got to the MMUN conference area while they awaited their conference badges... (especially when this adorable game sprung up, completely unprovoked).
While we waited I also convinced a few of them to pose in front of the step and repeat backdrop the conference had set up in the waiting area...
Eventually Adam had collected the badges and got the group to sit together to go over the details of the next few days:
Back to the hotel, put on the fancy clothes for the Opening Ceremonies, and off for a quick dinner in smaller groups.
Our group went to Junior's -- they love eating out when nobody's telling them what to order... managing their own finances for the trip... it's fun to watch.
Then we were off to the Opening Ceremony, and our flag bearers were whisked off to a different area of the room. We made our way into the huge auditorium:
After not too much waiting, the parade began. (15 second clip of the opening ceremony parade is here, where our kids walk through.) FWIW, the opening ceremony parade video went on for almost four minutes, with kids walking by at this pace. An extraordinary number of delegates from all over the world! I cut it to 15 seconds - you’re welcome. Our flags are North Korea, 🇰🇵 France 🇫🇷 and Morocco 🇲🇦.
The ceremony wasn't short, but they made it interesting. Never say Montessori Model UN Opening Ceremony doesn’t know how to raise the roof. (Watch a snippit of video here - yes, those are peace signs they're waving.)
THURSDAY, MARCH 5
Our delegates dressed in their business attire and readied themselves for the first day of negotiations. Convinced just one to take a "send to mama" portrait outside the hotel as we waited for the class to assemble... (horrified by the blurry portrait mode iPhone shot but you'll forgive me, I know you will, and also - the subject looks 26 not 14, amirite?!)
And then off they went into their committee rooms. It was the first day of the meat of the conference. The kids were divided into rooms where they don’t know anyone except maybe one classmate, and they’re there to represent the interests of the country they’ve researched.
These next girls pictured are on the United Nations Security Council, and today their room is discussing the situation in Lybia. Tomorrow they discuss the situation in Cyprus. These girls wrote position papers from the perspective of France on these two topics that they submitted prior to the meeting, and each day one of them will present for one minute for their country, before negotiations begin.
Also, FWIW, these topics are no joke. Cliff notes below for the acronyms so you don’t have to google. (They’re the actual UN Committees.)
1️⃣ DISEC: Disarmament & International Security
2️⃣ ECOSOC: Economic & Social Council
3️⃣ FAO: Food & Agriculture Organization of the UN
4️⃣ HRC: UN Human Rights Council
5️⃣ SOCHUM: Social, Humanitarian & Cultural
6️⃣ UNODC: United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime
7️⃣ UNSC: Security Council
With two additional committees as well:
8️⃣ MMUN Press Corps
Some of the rooms are small, some quite large (this next one pictured is on the smaller side). There are a couple of rows of seats at the back for the chaperones, but this thing is completely run by kids. The “Chair” of each committee sits at the front with a Vice Chair and a Rapporteur - roles filled by what appear to all be ~college kids. (Annie’s blurry little head is about centered in this pic - as I surreptitiously shot this while exiting the room.)
This next one is one of the larger conference rooms. Brave, bright kids, saving us from ourselves.
The hotel where the conference takes place is gorgeous and completely Coronavirus-equipped. Every room has a Purell-wielding adult who won’t let you enter without a couple of squirts.
The hallways on every floor are lined with posters of country information made by the kids.
No discussion of the 2020 MMUN trip would be complete without addressing the Coronavirus - it's on everyone's minds and as the resident mama I'm obsessive about making them wash their hands and Purell between washings.
The conference is also taking it very seriously...
After lunch, they continued in their committee rooms.
Before this committee finishes their morning discussion negotiating nuclear disarmament, they’re doing a 15 minute group exercise in a quiet room. They’ve been told to use this page of the conference booklet to brainstorm. On the left they’re to identify what breaks their heart. On the right they’re listing their strengths. Then they’re determining how they can use their strength to make a difference in the world as relates to this issue that breaks their heart. ❤️
At this point they were four hours into the discussion of nuclear disarmament in this room.
They’ve had lunch.
They just did roll call, each delegate stood and announced their attendance, and then one of them put forward a motion that they wanted another 25 minute informal consultation.
They all stood and clustered in the back of the room around papers stuck to the wall, a few of them with sharpies in hand. Some of the more extroverted among them took the lead, and in those 25 minutes they continued to draft the morning’s resolutions as a group - talking loudly, often over each other but more often respectfully. Some kids stood back and watched. Some kids stepped away from the cluster and talked about what it was like at their home schools. No adults stepped in to correct behavior - it was up to the kids to choose which conversation they wanted to be involved in. As the 25 minutes came to a close, one of the kids approached the committee chair with a huge piece of paper that listed all of their draft resolutions.
Skylar’s centered in this next pic if you’re playing Where’s Waldo with Thacher faces.
Next they move on to a formal consultation for the purpose of reading aloud the completed, working draft resolution.
They then took a few minutes to type it up, and now it’s on a big screen so the group can do a formal, line by line review. Now seated back in their chairs, they read a line of the resolution aloud to the group, and ask if it passes. The kids approve or object to every line, phrase by phrase. For example, one person wanted the word “disarmament” on one particular line and one person suggested the word “dismantlement”. It was put to a vote. (“dismantlement” won). They come to a consensus on each and every line of the resolution, giving everybody a voice. According to the chair, this part isn't the time for further debate - at this point they assume the debate is over, and they aren’t supposed to change the meaning of the text, they just want to clarify and make it as precise as possible, since the final resolution will be translated into many languages.
And then it was time to wrap it up for the day. They didn't finish their 2nd topic on the first day, but the same kids will come into the same rooms tomorrow and pick up where they left off.
But for now, they get a break.
FRIDAY, MARCH 6th
The next morning, I convinced a few more to do the send-to-mama portraits of them in their business attire. I was honestly shocked when my own child requested one.
Then on to Starbucks - fueling the delegates for a day of getting their way in their negotiations. #gogetem
Reaching across the aisle before negotiations resume...
Yesterday’s negotiations about weapons in space made lots of progress. See the next photo below. Today they begin where they left off. They take roll call... around the room they go, raising their country cards and saying, one by one, “The delegation of the democratic republic of the Congo is present and voting” etc. Then “The bureau (three older teenagers at the front of the room - chair, vice chair and rapporteur) would like to remind the delegates of the guiding questions...” and then “Floor open to motions... Motion for an informal consultation for 20 minutes...
All in favor... Motion passes by majority...” and they head to the back of the room to cluster again and continue with their brainstorming.
The negotiations in this Model UN room (weapons in space) continue to land in this format, the cluster around these big pieces of paper on the wall. They call it an “informal consultation” for an agreed-upon amount of time. They put forth, and then as a group, pass, a motion (while they’re all seated at their tables) to do one of these “informal consultations” for 10, 20, 25 minutes, depending on how much time they think they need to get their ideas onto paper.
What they’re working on writing is the “preambulatory clauses” (which are, according to the internet: “The preamble of a resolution states the reasons for which the committee is addressing the topic and highlights past international action on the issue. Each clause begins with a present participle (called a preambulatory phrase) and ends with a comma. Preambulatory clauses are historic justifications for action. Use them to cite past resolutions, precedents and statements about the purpose of action.”) and then they spend most of their time on their all-important “operative clauses” (or, as the internet clarifies: “Operative clauses are policies that the resolution is designed to create. Use them to explain what the committee will do to address the issue.”)
Fascinating to be a fly on the wall for this. Overheard: “Get in a circle we’re voting on this… Fully aware that... Recognizing that... Emphasizing that… Encouraging countries to adopt... Raise your hand if you disagree... Guys, guys, come on... That sounds great... I feel like we should change... That seems a little aggressive... How would we reword this?... Keep it in or keep it out.... Want to co-sponsor something, go over there and put your name on it...”
At some point during this, the kids who are designated in the program as members of the UN Press Corps arrived in the room, and started circulating and interviewing other kids. They stood there, pads of paper in hand, and (representing a particular newspaper, from a particular country, reflecting and taking into account the bias of that paper) asked questions of the delegates in the room like, "What is your country’s stance on weapons in space?” and dutifully noted and quoted the delegates.
Now the story of Friday wouldn't be complete without a mention of the social night, that happens on the last night of the conference. The other chaperone and I arrived with our crew of eleven interested-in-dancing kids, and within moments they disappeared into the center of this very large room, swallowed up by the pulsing music and happy, relaxed friends:
SATURDAY, MARCH 7th
The next morning the rolling bags were stored at the hotel by 7am and we were en route to breakfast. After they got some sustenance, the kids were ready to take their seats with their committees in the large ballroom for the closing ceremony. Lots of eyes were trained up on the podium at the front!
The speakers included a couple of really inspirational United Nations delegates, but the majority of the time (maybe 2 hours?) that we spent in the closing ceremony ballroom was spent hearing from each individual committee about the results of their days of negotiations.
The different committees' position papers were summarized in these cool idea clouds... I grabbed photos of some of them:
A handful of kids from each of the rooms got up in front of this room and read a few sentences aloud. These kids were "volunteered" by their committee rooms - what an honor! Three Thacher kids got to present in the closing ceremony...
All in all, it was just an incredible success! (Missing: one kiddo who had a Saturday soccer commitment)
I'm Jessica McDaniel, and May 2021 will mark my 18th anniversary photographing babies and their families all around Boston.
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