United Nations in NYC

Global citizenship

United Nations in NYC: Bringing curriculum to life

As a student, there’s nothing more exciting than seeing something you’ve learned in school in the real world. So as a teacher, there’s nothing more exciting than witnessing your students experience that in real time. Karen A., a middle school social studies teacher from Boulder, Colorado, had this opportunity recently on her EF Explore America tour to New York City.

What made this class trip important for Karen was the incorporation of the United Nations into the itinerary. Because this tour was Karen’s first with EF, she approached her EF Travel Team to craft a trip that aligned with her goals for her sixth, seventh, and eighth graders. Luckily, one of EF Explore America’s partners is none other than the United Nations Foundation, a nonprofit organization that works to support the work of the United Nations.

Karen’s curriculum for the past 16 years has included an enormous, self-contained Model United Nations project. “[The project] is so engaging, and it’s so relevant in their lives,” she said. “They’re looking at real world issues. They love the debate and voting on each other’s resolutions. It’s just an exciting part of our curriculum that a lot of students connect with.”

So when the class trip she was promoting filled up overnight, Karen knew why. “So many families just wanted that connection to their learning. The best kind of learning happens when you’re experiencing and you’re immersed in it.”

With that mindset, Karen led over 60 students on a class trip to the Big Apple.

Below you can see the stops they made and how impactful the United Nations Foundation made their tour experience. And more importantly, you can get a sense for how EF partnerships like this one could enhance the tour experience for your students.

[This experience] was one of the highlights of my career. As a teacher, most of all, you want your students to feel excited about learning. You want them to be connected and engaged.

Karen A., Group Leader

United Nations in NYC

Stop #1: The United Nations Foundation

When the group met up with Troy Wolfe, Senior Director of Partnerships & Special Initiatives at the United Nations Foundation, Karen knew they were in for a treat. Troy ran an interactive workshop about the United Nations Association of the USA (UNA-USA), a movement that supports regular civilians dedicated to upholding the mission of the United Nations. “[Troy’s] slideshow was really tailored for kids this age,” Karen said. Students eagerly seized the opportunity to engage by telling Troy about their school learnings, their knowledge of the United Nations, and how they see the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in their day-to-day lives.

Troy shared resources to help show students how to get involved at home, such as joining a local chapter of UNA-USA, or downloading the app MyDiplomat, which allows users to simulate addressing UN issues. The opportunity to give students the tools to impact their own communities is exactly why EF partners with the United Nations Foundation.

United Nations in NYC

Stop #2: United Nations Headquaters

After a quick break, the group headed to UN HQ. “There was this anticipation. You could just feel kids’ excitement,” Karen said. With the help of a guide, the group got to see art exhibitions that highlight topics that are important to the UN, such as human rights and sustainable development. Curious students could ask their guide specific questions as they walked through, and it was during these moments that a wave of pride fell over Karen again. “These are 12- and 13-year-old children. They don’t have that tangible real world knowledge and experience that adults, or even young adults, have,” she explained. “So to see them so excited and invested shows me they have this enormous potential for making an impact in the future—because at 12, they already care so much.”

United Nations in NYC

Stop #3: Security Council Chamber & General Assembly

In Karen’s opinion, the best part, and arguably the most moving, was seeing the Security Council Chamber and the General Assembly in person. Karen recalled hearing the students gasping when they walked in to each room. “I actually got a little choked up,” she said. “To see the actual place where this work happens…we all are so deeply connected to it. It was pretty powerful.” Of course students were filled with questions. Who sits here? How do they understand languages they don’t speak? Why are chairs placed in a certain way?

Karen knows that witnessing where diplomats and ambassadors spend their days working towards making the world a better place was a memorable experience for her students. “These are the future leaders of our country,” she said. “To see them so invested in the work was pretty cool.”

This experience was just the beginning for Karen and her students, literally. All three of these stops took place on the first day of their tour. “That was the perfect way to start the week,” she said. “It just validated all of my hopes for this trip, to be able to show the kids this is why we do what we do.”

The United Nations Foundation isn’t EF’s only partner that can enhance your itinerary.

The folks at Mount Vernon, MassRobotics, or Turnstile Tours can give your students a unique and interactive experience when they visit Washington, D.C., Boston, or New York City on an EF Explore America tour.

United Nations in NYC

Mount Vernon

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United Nations in NYC


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United Nations in NYC

Turnstile Tours

A taste of everything New York City has to offer

United Nations in NYC

Want to visit the United Nations in NYC with your own students?

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Addison Dlott

Addison is a producer at EF Educational Tours. She has lived and worked in Malaysia, The Gambia, New York, and Washington D.C. When she shuts off her laptop, you can find her unapologetically petting dogs or meeting with friends over tea and dessert. In her dream world, she’s doing both at the same time.