At the Marriott Hotel in downtown Louisville, Syrian diplomats celebrated their victory. They and their Russian allies had pushed a resolution through the United Nations General Assembly allowing them to privatize their public water systems without any pushback from the outside world.
On the floor below, Australian and Japanese attorneys argued in front of the International Court of Justice about the harvesting of whales by Japanese ships.
Besides taking place in a Louisville hotel, the biggest change to these United Nations procedures was that they were being carried out by Kentucky high school and middle school students.
“It’s really cool,” said Sovann Chang, a junior at the Brown School (Jefferson County), who acted as a Russian representative in the general assembly. “It’s nice to learn more about the Russian culture and their point of view. We did a lot of research; we’ve been working on this for six or seven months.”
Students participating in the International Court of Justice also put in a lot of work to prepare for the cases they were presenting.
“You’re supposed to get your material a month in advance, but we were alternates, so originally we weren’t supposed to do this. Another team dropped out, so we had two weeks to read 100 pages about whaling,” said Belinda Chang, a senior at Taylor County High School, representing Australia.
Chang said that things became easier when the team they were debating against helped them expand their points after the first of three presentations
“It was a bit of train wreck, but everyone’s really sweet,” said Chang. “We worked with the people representing Japan in the whaling case in between our arguments. They helped us, even though we were going up against them, and our later presentations got much better.”
Despite the hard work, students said the effort was worth it for the opportunity to learn about other countries and meet new people.
“I would say, just go ahead do it, even if you’re hesitant,” said J. Scott, a freshman at Montgomery County High School, representing Rwanda. “Once you do it, you won’t regret it. It’s so much fun. If you think you won’t be good enough, the committees teach you a lot and it’s a great learning experience.”
The Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) publishes Kentucky Teacher to communicate directly with the state’s 40,000 public school teachers. The stories of this award-winning publication include news, perspectives, and practical, workable ideas for guiding students to higher levels of achievement.