Santa Barbara Montessori School seventh- and eighth-grade students are in New York City this week as participant delegates to the Montessori Model United Nations program at the U.N. General Assembly.

The MMUN General Assembly will host more than 900 students from around the world as they gather to debate and consider issues affecting all member nations represented by the student delegates.

“Our student delegates are representing Germany and Switzerland for this assembly,” teacher Allwyn Fitzpatrick said. “We began studying and preparing our topics months ago. This year’s include using women as weapons of war; education for all — especially women and children — water security; nuclear nonproliferation; food sustainability; and environmental disaster relief.

“With what’s been going on recently in Japan and in northern Africa, these particular topics have been really important by providing a ‘right now’ perspective of what’s happening in other parts of the world, and how those events affect Germany and Switzerland, in addition to other countries. We’re really looking forward to the debates that will conclude with the General Assembly meeting on Saturday.”

With meetings held in conference rooms within the U.N. building, the SBMS students are excited to have the opportunity to prepare and present the results of months of study and research.

“Aside from the U.N. experience, there is a real sense of adventure for those students who have never been to New York City,” Fitzpatrick said. “There’s definitely a tendency to be a little wide-eyed. This is the third group we’ve brought to NYC, so our current students, and our alumni, now have friends from all around the world.”

The students depart for Washington, D.C., on Sunday, where they’re scheduled to meet with Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, and visit the White House, along with other sites and locations.

“We were trying to arrange a visit to the White House’s vegetable garden, but unfortunately it has very limited access for visitors,” Fitzpatrick said. “We thought we could share with Malia and Sasha Obama some secrets from our experiences in our school’s organic vegetable gardens. Maybe on our next trip!”

— Jim Fitzpatrick is the head of school for Santa Barbara Montessori School.