From left, Craig Middle School eighth-grader Wes Atkin and seventh-graders Zach Soron, Wyatt Bellio and Marie Bolton pose for a photo outside of Olympian Hall in Steamboat Springs during a Colorado Model United Nations conference May 9 and 10. The event, the first of its kind in Northwest Colorado, required students to tackle social, environmental and economic problems in other countries.

Brynna Vogt

From left, Craig Middle School eighth-grader Wes Atkin and seventh-graders Zach Soron, Wyatt Bellio and Marie Bolton pose for a photo outside of Olympian Hall in Steamboat Springs during a Colorado Model United Nations conference May 9 and 10. The event, the first of its kind in Northwest Colorado, required students to tackle social, environmental and economic problems in other countries.

Model United Nations conference elicits global awareness in CMS students

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“I think that they have … more of an interest in what’s going on in the world around them.”

— Brynna Vogt, a Craig Middle School seventh-grade science teacher, about what CMS students took away from a Colorado Model United Nations conference in May

Tyler Simon dug deep into the problems plaguing a country halfway around the world and came back with alarming statistics.

Ten percent of Afghani children will die before their fifth birthday, giving the country one of the highest child death rates in the world, he and other Craig Middle School students wrote in a resolution they presented to a Colorado Model United Nations conference last month.

These and other ominous statistics left an indelible impression on the 12-year-old’s mind as he probed into the Middle Eastern country’s social and economic dilemmas.

“I think it kind of made me feel a little bad because most of it is because of the war,” said Tyler, who recently finished seventh grade.

He and other handpicked CMS seventh- and eighth-graders convened May 9 and 10 with other students from around the region for the first Model United Nations conference in Northwest Colorado.

The program “teaches them to put themselves inside the shoes of people in another country,” said Vera Turner, gifted and talented program coordinator for the Moffat County School District.

She and Brynna Vogt, a seventh-grade science teacher at CMS, were among a group of local educators involved with the event in Steamboat Springs.

The conference was a microcosm of the real-life collaboration of nations, complete with an array of councils addressing everything from international court to economic and social issues.

Students began by splitting into groups and choosing a country to research.

For Tyler and other members in his group, the choice was obvious.

“Instantly, my group thought (of) Afghanistan,” he said. "We instantly thought about the war and how we left it in shreds."

The facts he unearthed about the country’s alarmingly high child mortality rate gave him pause, yet he also found reason for hope.

During the course of his research, he concluded that American military forces had done more good in the country than he initially thought, he said.

His group’s mock resolution urged the Model United Nations to send medicine, doctors, food and other supplies to help Afghani children.

Students from schools across the region— including Hayden, Aspen, Eagle, and West Grand County— tackled other issues like combating AIDS in Rwanda and sending humanitarian relief to Japan in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster. Participants debated the resolutions in council sessions and in a general assembly.

Some of the students’ work needed some tweaking, yet Vogt was impressed by how the CMS students performed.

"Our kids did a great job,” she said. “They were very, very well prepared (and) very professional about it.” Vogt believes wrangling with such broad-reaching problems will have a lasting impact on the students.

“I think that they have … more of an interest in what’s going on in the world around them,” she said.

Next year, CMS will offer a second-semester Model United Nations class which, like the conference itself, will pull from the school’s high-achieving students, Turner said.

Students are already raring for a second chance to take on more global problems — in theory, at least.

“One of the things that was really exciting for me was I had kids saying, ‘I can’t wait for next year,’” Vogt said.

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