Teaching About the United Nations

Introduction

The United Nations is an international organization founded in 1945 in the aftermath of World War II that works to maintain international peace and security, protect human rights, deliver humanitarian aid, promote sustainable development, and uphold international law. The UN is often overlooked, but the organization makes a difference and plays an important role in preventing war and keeping people safe. Teaching about the United Nations is important in order for students to learn about the issues that plague less developed and developing countries, the disparity between the have and the have nots, and more related matters.

Resources

There are an abundance of resources available online for teaching about the United Nations. Along with the lesson plans, articles, and informational sites listed below, educators should check out the official websites for the United Nations and United Nations Foundation. Some of the best information on the UN and its purpose comes from the source itself!

Lesson Plans

  1. The United Nations Matters – Teaching Pack: UNA-UK has put together a teaching resource to help students understand the UN and the global issues it addresses. There are five lessons included in this resource, including The UN: Working for Us All, The UN: Keeping the Peace, The UN: Fighting Poverty, The UN: Promoting Human Rights, and Diplomacy in Action: Model United Nations. Each lesson consists of teacher’s notes, lesson plans, and student worksheets and should take approximately an hour to complete, except for the fifth lesson which is designed to take a couple hours due to an additional simulation.
  2. Teacher’s Guide – The United Nations School Material: The United Nations offers a teacher’s guide to help educators teach their students about the UN and matters important to the organization. There are five Prezi presentations included in the guide which are designed to teach students about different parts of the UN System and about the organization’s goals and purposes. Each is accompanied by learning objectives, questions, and exercises that will help students gain more in-depth knowledge on the UN.
  3. Lesson Plan – What the United Nations Means Today: PBS Newshour Extra provides a lesson plan which focuses on what the United Nations means today. In this lesson, which is designed to take about five class periods, students will learn about the work of the UN by researching an issue they are passionate about and understand the importance of using their voice to share knowledge with others.
  4. Lesson of the Day – ‘What is the United Nations? Its History, Its Goals and Its Relevance’: The New York Times has put together a lesson which will have students examine the legacy, purpose and power of the United Nations. Students will then consider whether the international organization is still relevant today. The lesson includes a lesson overview, warm-up activity, featured article, questions for writing and discussion, and ideas for going further.
  5. United Nations Day Lessons: Education World outlines the lesson plan “The United Nations and Reform” provided by PBS. The main activity is split into two parts. In the first part, students will read an article on the background of the UN, answer discussion questions, and create a brief presentation. In the second part, students will read a handout “A Call for Reform” and participate in a group discussion based on the questions provided. Extension activities, extra resources for teachers, and resources for lesson plans are also included.

Articles

  1. Is It Still Necessary To Teach About the United Nations?: Anne-Marie Carlson, who is the chair of the Committee on Teaching About the United Nations and chair of NGO/DPI Executive committee, discusses why it is important now more than ever to educate young people about the United Nations and the global issues the international institution is trying to address. She goes on to explain the six units and lessons that are imperative for students to learn about in the classroom. For educators who are curious about why teaching about the UN is important and are looking for suggestions of topics to cover, this resource will be very helpful!
  2. The New York Times – United Nations: The New York Times offers a multitude of relevant articles on the United Nations. Students should take a look through these Times Topics and find one that interests them. Topics include the UN reclassifying cannabis as a less dangerous drug, the UN warning that exports of used cars are a pollution problem, and more.

Informational Sites

  1. Britannica – United Nations: Britannica provides an abundance of information about the UN, specifically its history and development, organization and administration, functions, members, and more. For educators who want their students to learn the details about the history of the UN and its role today, this informational article will come in handy!
  2. CNN – United Nations Fast Facts: CNN offers some fast facts about the United Nations. These facts focus on the United Nations Charter, secretary-general, general assembly, and member states. This resource would serve best for educators who want their students to have a bit of background on the make-up of the UN before participating in a more detailed lesson.
  3. Khan Academy – The United Nations: Khan Academy provides a brief article on the United Nations. This article focuses on negotiating a postwar world order, the structure and function of the United Nations, the United Nations in the Cold War, and the evolution of the UN. There are also a handful of discussion questions at the end of the article. This resource is best for educators who want to focus on the role of the UN in history because there is little information on its role in today’s society.
  4. Basic Principles and Purposes of the United Nations: Scholastic provides an article on the basic principles and purposes of the United Nations. The article discusses the principal organs of the organization, which include the General Assembly, the Security Council, the Economic and Social Council, the Trusteeship Council, the International Court of Justice, and the Secretariat. 

Conclusion

Teaching about the United Nations is an important task because students will learn more about how the UN works to address issues, such as unsafe water supplies, poor sanitation, and hunger, which many students may not be too informed about. Learning about the UN will help students grasp the greater life lesson of being aware of issues outside of themselves. Some students may not have to worry about getting clean water, but there are millions of people who are concerned about this on a daily basis! Additionally, it is also important for students to learn about how the UN directly impacts their lives! The resources above will help educators to teach students about all the types of issues that the UN addresses!

Additional Resources

  1. TedEd – What Does the United Nations Actually Do?: TedEd offers a two-minute video on how the United Nations works. From this video, students will learn more about the UN’s role in world politics and policy making. In addition, four questions for students to discuss and additional resources are provided.
  2. HISTORY – United Nations: History.com has published an informational article on the United Nations, which discusses the Atlantic Charter, UN Charter, United Nations’ four main goals, UN bodies, UN members, UN successes, UN criticisms, and UN failures.
  3. The United Nations; Who They Are And Why They Have Your Back; Or Do They?: The Harry S. Truman Library & Museum provides a lesson on the United Nations and its purpose. Detailed directions for each day required to complete the activities in this lesson are provided along with secondary materials and primary sources needed.

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