Photo courtesy of MUN01

Model UN gavel

      The sound of the gavel hitting a hard wooden desk and students typing away on computers rings throughout the room, as everyone prepares for the newest discussion. The topic is the Hong Kong crisis. As the debate begins, the room quickly fills with energetic tension as students express their thoroughly researched opinions and viewpoints. In the end, all participants hold their breath to see what the final result will be. Did their hard work come through or not?

      This is what a normal Westfield Model United Nations meeting would consist of in school. Now that in-person learning has been postponed until 2021, Westfield Model UN, along with many other Westfield clubs, has had to transition to an online setting in order to conduct its meetings and conferences.

      Westfield Model United Nations “MUN” is a student-led club that discusses and debates global topics and issues among participants who represent countries or other important figures . Model UN not only discusses global events but also works to improve the speaking and debating skills of its members. The students engaged in these conversations can come from Westfield for club debates, however,  the club also participates in conferences throughout Fairfax County against other high schools.


      As both classes and clubs have seen with distance learning, it is more difficult to keep students engaged in activities. Clubs must work extra hard to keep members engaged and entertained in activities and meetings. Westfield MUN debates are held in a 2v2 strategy this year in order to keep participants further engaged and interactive.

      Dipa Bhattacharyya, 11, who serves on Westfield MUN’s leadership team, says, “It is much harder to have people participate and be social. However, I think the ones very enthusiastic about the conferences have been doing their best to stay engaged and participate as much as they can.”

      The Westfield MUN holds its meeting on Mondays at 3:00 pm. Students connect on Blackboard Collaborate for general meetings, but conferences, like the upcoming Model UN virtual conferences, are all held on Zoom. 

      Through the switch from in-person to online meetings the club has actually managed to keep the same main activities. Conferences are still held as well as meetings to work with student participants. 

      Bhattacharyya states, “ Although the number of meetings has decreased drastically from last year, we are still doing Mock Conferences through BBCU and virtual conferences through Zoom.”

      Though these changes have occurred within the club, there are both positives and negatives to these new circumstances. The negatives being that students obviously can not interact with each other in a school setting, which removes the usual energetic atmosphere of Model UN and makes it harder to engage students. Preparation has become harder for Westfield MUN due to the switch to online as well.

      “Since Model UN requires heavy participation, the lack of response is making it hard to prepare students for MUN conferences ”  Bhattacharyya says

      Though the negative impacts are quite larger, there are positive changes as well. Students are able to debate and discuss global events in a safe environment. Not only this, but easier access to club meetings has not been opened up to students for the future. 

      As the debate comes to an end, students shake hands and everyone is thanked for both their effort, participation, and time. Now, these same students shake virtual hands in an attempt to re-create the same environment of in-person debates.