History Challenge

(Crossover with STEAM) 

The Model UN of Climate Justice

Submission Due Date: March 26, 2021

Designed for Middle and High School Students

Table of Contents

  • The Challenge
  • Assumptions and Logistics
  • Process
  • Meridian Support Resources
  • Presentation of Learning
  • Evaluation Rubric
  • Essential Questions
  • Student Proficiencies
  • Curricular Correlations: C3 Framework and NGSS
Range of Activities

  • Primary and Secondary Research: A Select Country
  • Research: Multi-leveled Exploration of Climate Change in Select Country
  • Exploration of the Concept of Climate Justice
  • Organizing and Writing
  • Research: Salient Images to Support Narrative
  • Digital Literacy Skills – Video Pre-production, Production and Post-Production
  • 21st Century Skills – Creativity, Collaboration, Critical Thinking, Presentational Skills

The Challenge

Climate change is a topic with which we tend to grapple and understand solely as a phenomenon of the physical sciences; through the lens of biology that focuses on the increasingly toxic mixture of human-made elements with natural elements. But there is a strong movement globally to understand it also as a social science: to understand it in terms of causation, global economics, disproportionate impact, and politics. This is called Climate Justice. What do we mean by that? Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, put it this way: “Climate justice insists on a shift from a discourse on greenhouse gases and melting ice caps into a civil rights movement with the people and communities most vulnerable to climate impacts at its heart.”

In this Challenge, you and your team will choose a country from the list below and create a Model UN-style presentation about climate change and climate justice, as a representative of that country. Following the format laid out in the Model UN structure, your team will first produce a ‘position paper’ about that country’s relationship to climate change. Loosely following the Model UN, this ‘position paper’ – or what we will call a ‘country profile’ – will cover three steps:

  • Background of Topic;
  • Past International Actions; and
  • Country Policy.

This won’t be a paper of course, but a fully produced video with a host, and images and graphics to illustrate your ideas. Then, comes the Opening Speech and here we’ll diverge a little from the traditional format. The Opening Speech is your opportunity – in 90 seconds or less – to appeal to this global body of countries about your climate justice needs. In other words, all the countries listed are small players on the global political spectrum and minor contributors to climate change (with a few interesting exceptions!). And yet, the threats these countries face as a result of climate change are highly consequential. What do you want to ask the rest of the world to do?

Deliverables include:

  • Digital Story (this is the only Meridian Stories deliverable)
  • Country Profile Summary (at teacher’s discretion)
  • Opening Speech Draft (at teacher’s discretion)
  • Final Draft Script (at teacher’s discretion)

Assumptions and Logistics

Time Frame – We recommend that this digital storytelling project takes place inside of a three to four-week time frame.

Length – All Meridian Stories submissions should be under 4 minutes in length, unless otherwise specified.

Slate – All digital storytelling projects must begin with a slate that provides:

  1. the title of the piece;
  2. the name of the school submitting;
  3. the wording ‘Permission Granted’ which gives Meridian Stories the right to a) publicly display the submission in question on, as linked from, related to or in support of Meridian Stories digital media; and b) use or reference it for educational purposes only in any and all media; and
  4. We strongly recommend that students do not put their last names on the piece either at the start or finish, during the credits.

Submissions – Keep in mind that each school can only submit three submissions per Competition (so while the entire class can participate in the Challenge, only three can be submitted to Meridian Stories for Mentor review and scoring).

Teacher Reviews – All reviews by the teacher are at the discretion of the teacher and all suggested paper deliverables are due only to the teacher. The only deliverable to Meridian Stories is the digital storytelling project.

Teacher’s Role and Technology Integrator – While it is helpful to have a Technology Integrator involved, they are not usually necessary: the students already know how to produce the digital storytelling project. And if they don’t, part of their challenge is to figure it out. They will! The teacher’s primary function in these Challenges is to guide the students as they engage with the content.  You don’t need to know editing, sound design, shooting or storyboarding: you just need to know your content area, while assisting them with time management issues.

Digital Rules/Literacy – We strongly recommend that all students follow the rules of Digital Citizenry in their proper usage and/or citation of images, music and text taken from other sources. This recommendation includes producing a citations page at the end of your entry, if applicable. See the Digital Rules area in the Meridian Resources Center section of the site for guidance.

Location – Try not to shoot in a classroom at your school. The classroom, no matter how you dress it up, looks like a classroom and can negatively impact the digital story you are trying to tell.

Collaboration – We strongly recommend that students work in teams of 3-4: part of the educational value is around building collaborative skill sets. But students may work individually.

COVID-19 does not mean that students can’t collaborate. This unusual societal circumstance allows students to, paradoxically, focus on their collaborative skills even more through a clear delegation of responsibilities; and tight communication in order to insure that everyone is clear on the scripting and blocking of individual scenes that need to tell a cohesive story, even though the scenes may be shot in isolation. Digital storytelling projects in general move the essential communication about content and learning away from the educator and toward the students themselves. That is part of their educational strength. But in COVID-19, this quality is expanded. With the teacher more ‘unavailable’ than normal, the students must rely on their collaborative skills more than ever. It’s like playing a team sport with less input from the coach. They have to rise the occasion …and they will.


Below is a suggested breakdown for the students’ work. 

During Phase I student teams will:

  • Select a country from the list below:
Burundi Sri Lanka
Democratic Republic of the Congo Fiji
South Sudan Canada
Madagascar Japan
Sierra Leone Peru
Haiti Costa Rica
Jamaica Philippines
Jordan Bangladesh
Egypt Nepal
  • Using primary and secondary sources research that country in terms of the three driving points – slightly adjusted – that make up a Model UN presentation:
    • Background of Climate Change – This asks: what are the primary characteristics of the country’s ecosystems that might make the country vulnerable to climate change?
    • Past Domestic and International Actions – What has the country done in the past ten to twenty years to acknowledge and address the protection of their ecosystems while attempting to stem their contributions to climate change?
    • Country Policy – Currently, what are the biggest threats to the country and do they have policies in place to confronts these threats?
  • Organize these facts and figures, ideas and policies into a timeline or narrative framework that effectively communicates the story of that country, past and present, as it relates to the environment.
    • Teacher’s Option: Country Profile Summary – Teachers may require that teams hand in a two page Country Profile Summary that reflects the key points of their research.
  • Research what is meant by ‘climate justice.’ This is not a simple term and can be understood from many different vantage points. Dig in and write a one-page paper summarizing the results of your research about the phrase, ‘climate justice.’
  • Based on this understanding, draft your ‘opening speech.’ What does your country have to say to the rest of the world about this topic? Do you have any specific demands? Perusing social media from that country can be an effective way to understand a visceral sense of what people really feel about the state of their environment. (Check out Using Social Media as a Research Tool for support.)
    • Teacher’s Option: Opening Speech Draft – Teachers may require that teams hand in a draft of the key messages about climate justice.
  • By the end of Phase I, your team should have a clear sense of the threats of climate change to your select country; the current politics that is shaping that country’s response; and the role your country should play in the global debate around climate justice.

During Phase II student teams will:

  • The focus in Phase II is around dramatizing the content – the knowledge you have gathered and organized – into a digital story. In this case, that story is part documentary-style presentation of the country as seen through the lens of climate change/climate justice (the framing story) and part dramatic appeal (the opening statement).
  • Create an outline for your script.
  • Gather images and footage to support the country profile portion of your story. And keep this mind: it’s a story you want to tell. This is not designed to be a listing of facts. That will bore you. It will bore your proposed UN audience. In fact, you want to wake them up! So, be sure to view this as a story – a portrait of a living and fluid entity: your chosen country – designed to engage their full attention.
  • Decide on how you want to present your ‘opening speech’. Some ideas to consider:
  • This part of your narrative should be different visually and aurally; should shake the audience into attention that something new and, perhaps, dramatic, has happened. Think …graphics, animation, music and sound effects. You are moving from ‘narrative description’ to justice, injustice and resilience: and that requires a change on tone, and a change in visual and aural presence.
    • Is the best approach an impassioned talking head? Perhaps. Putting a sincere and emotional human face to your climate justice cause could work.
  • Write your script, from the country profile section through to the opening speech section.
    • Teacher’s Option: Final Draft Script – Teachers may require that teams hand in a final draft of their script, from start to finish, for review and feedback.
  • Pre-produce the digital story:
    • Scout locations for shooting, as necessary;
    • Continue to research, as necessary, the still images and video clips that you will integrate into your video;
    • Create costumes, props and other set pieces, as needed;
    • Prepare the logistics for the actual shooting of the video;
    • Cast the characters and voices that will deliver your story; and
    • Rehearse the scenes that will compromise the video.

During Phase III, student teams will:

  • Shoot the video
  • Record the voice-over or narration, as necessary.
  • Edit the video, adding stills and graphics as desired.
  • Post-produce the video, adding music and sound effects as desired.

Meridian Support – The Digital Storytelling Resource Center

Meridian Stories provides two forms of support for the student teams:

1.    Meridian Innovators and Artists – This is a series of three to four-minute videos featuring artists and innovative professionals who offer important advice, specifically for Meridian Stories, in the areas of creativity and production.

2.    Media Resource Collection – These are short documents that offer student teams key tips in the areas of creativity, production, game design and digital citizenry.

Recommended review, as a team, for this Challenge include:

Meridian Innovators and Artists Media Resource Collection
On Documentary Films – Sarah Childress

On Photography – Michael Kolster

On Editing – Tom Pierce

On Producing – Tom Pierce

Creating Storyboards, Framing a Shot

Creating A Short Documentary

Using Social Media as a Research Tool

Digital Rules – The Starting Line

Presentation of Learning

Meridian Stories is a proud partner of the non-profit Share Your Learning, which is spearheading the movement of over five million students to publicly share their work as a meaningful part of their educational experience.

The workforce considers Presentational Skills to be a key asset and we encourage you to allow students to practice this skill set as often as possible. These digital storytelling projects provide a great opportunity for kids to practice their public presentational skills. This can be achieved in a remote learning environment by inviting parents to a Zoom/Google/Skype screening of the student’s digital stories.

According to Share Your Learning, Presentations of Learning (POL) promote…

  • Student Ownership, Responsibility & Engagement. POLs can serve as a powerful rite of passage at the end of [a project]. By reflecting on their growth over time in relation to academic and character goals, grounded in evidence from their work, students are encouraged to take ownership of their learning. Just as an artist wants their portfolio to represent their best work, POLs encourage students to care deeply about the work they will share.
  • Community Pride & Involvement. When peers, teachers and community members come together to engage with student work and provide authentic feedback, they become invested in students’ growth and serve as active contributors to the school community.
  • Equity. POLs ensure that all students are seen and provide insight into what learning experiences students find most meaningful and relevant to their lives.

Meridian Stories’ own research indicates this to be a really useful exercise for one additional reason:  Students actually learn from their peers’ presentations – it is useful to hear a perspective that is not just the teacher’s.

It is with this in mind that we you encourage you to plan an event – it could be just an end-of-the-week class or an event where parents, teachers and student peers are invited – to allow the students to showcase their Meridian Stories’ digital storytelling projects. For more free resources that will support this planning, visit Share Your Learning.

Evaluation Rubric – The Model UN of Climate Justice


Criteria 1-10
The Country’s Environmental History The digital story comprehensively represents the country’s historical engagement with their natural environment
The Country’s Environmental Present The digital story comprehensively represents the country’s current engagement with their natural environment and the changes that are occurring
Articulation of Climate Justice Objectives The digital story presents a clear articulation of the societal and natural impact of climate change in their country, and their global call to action


Criteria 1-10
Narrative Clarity and Engagement The digital story has a clear and consistent tone that is well organized and delivers an engaging narrative
Country as Character The digital story presents the country as fully conceived place that establishes an empathetic connection to its audience
The “Opening Speech” The Opening Speech is clear, impassioned, well-researched, and well-acted


Criteria 1-10
Editing The digital story is edited cleanly and effectively, resulting in an engaging viewing experience
Sound and Music Sound effects and music enhance the audience’s engagement with the story
Imagery and Visualization The use of photos, graphics, existing footage and original footage made for a visually arresting experience

21st CENTURY SKILLS COMMAND (teachers only)

Criteria 1-10
Collaborative Thinking The group demonstrated flexibility in making compromises and valued the contributions of each group member
Creativity and Innovation The group brainstormed many inventive ideas and was able to evaluate, refine and implement them effectively
Initiative and Self-Direction The group set attainable goals, worked independently and managed their time effectively, demonstrating a disciplined commitment to the project

Essential Questions

  1. What’s the environmental history of a country other than the one in which you live and why is that important to understand?
  2. What are the key factors that go into how climate change affects ecosystems and societies on another country?
  3. What is climate justice and why is it important?
  4. How does immersion into another nation’s perspective on the global consequences of climate change enhance your understanding of the problem and possible solutions?
  5. How has immersion in the creation of a fictional character as based on historical research and the production of digital media – exercising one’s creativity, critical thinking and digital literacy skills – deepened the overall educational experience?
  6. How has working on a team – practicing one’s collaborative skills – changed the learning experience?

Student Proficiencies

  1. The student will understand the history of another country through the lens of their natural landscape, its economic development and the current environmental consequences.
  2. The student will gain a deeper understanding of the various scientific dynamics that inform global climate change.
  3. The student will understand what ‘climate justice’ is and the inextricable link between climate change and climate justice.
  4. The student will broaden their understanding of global politics through immersion in another country’s perspective of climate change.
  5. The student will utilize key 21st century skills, with a focus on creativity, critical thinking and digital literacy, in their process of translating historical and STEAM content into a new narrative format.
  6. The student will have an increased awareness of the challenges and rewards of team collaboration. Collaboration – the ability to work with others – is considered one of the most important 21st century skills to develop in students as they prepare for life after secondary school.

Curricular Correlations

The Model UN of Climate Justice  Challenge addresses a range of curricular objectives that have been articulated by two nationally recognized sources:

  1. The C3 Framework published by the National Council for Social Studies; and
  2. The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

Below please find the standards that are being addressed, either wholly or in part.

C3 Framework – NCSS

D2.Civ.1.6-8. Distinguish the powers and responsibilities of citizens, political parties, interest groups, and the media in a variety of

governmental and nongovernmental contexts.

D2.Civ.1.9-12. Distinguish the powers and responsibilities of local, state, tribal, national, and international civic and political institutions.
D2.Civ.3.6-8. Examine the origins, purposes, and impact of constitutions, laws, treaties, and international agreements. D2.Civ.3.9-12. Analyze the impact of constitutions,

laws, treaties, and international agreements on the

maintenance of national and international order.

D2.Civ.6.6-8. Describe the roles of political, civil, and economic organizations in shaping people’s lives. D2.Civ.6.9-12. Critique relationships among governments, civil societies, and economic markets.
D2.Eco.2.6-8. Evaluate alternative approaches or

solutions to current economic issues in terms of benefits and costs for different groups and

society as a whole.

D2.Eco.2.9-12. Use marginal benefits and marginal costs to construct an argument for or against an approach or solution to an economic issue.
D2.Geo.4.6-8. Explain how cultural patterns and economic decisions influence environments and the daily lives of people in both nearby and distant places. D2.Geo.4.9-12. Analyze relationships and interactions within and between human and physical systems to explain reciprocal influences that occur among them.
D2.Geo.7.6-8. Explain how changes in transportation and communication technology influence the spatial connections among human settlements and affect the diffusion of ideas and cultural practices. D2.Geo.7.9-12. Analyze the reciprocal nature of how historical events and the spatial diffusion of ideas, technologies, and cultural practices have influenced migration patterns and the distribution of human population.
D2.Geo.8.6-8. Analyze how relationships between humans and environments extend or contract spatial patterns of settlement and movement. D2.Geo.8.9-12. Evaluate the impact of economic activities and political decisions on spatial patterns within and among urban, suburban, and rural regions.
D2.Geo.9.6-8. Evaluate the influences of long-term human-induced environmental change on spatial patterns of conflict and cooperation.


D2.Geo.9.9-12. Evaluate the influence of long-term climate variability on human migration and settlement patterns, resource use, and land uses at

local-to-global scales.

D2.Geo.10.6-8. Analyze the ways in which cultural and environmental characteristics vary among various regions of the world.


D2.Geo.10.9-12. Evaluate how changes in the environmental and cultural characteristics of a place or region influence spatial patterns of trade and land use.
D2.Geo.12.6-8. Explain how global changes in population distribution patterns affect changes in land use in particular places. D2.Geo.12.9-12. Evaluate the consequences of human-made and natural catastrophes on global

trade, politics, and human migration.

D3.1.6-8. Gather relevant information from multiple sources while using the origin, authority, structure, context, and corroborative value of

the sources to guide the selection.


D3.1.9-12. Gather relevant information from multiple sources representing a wide range of views while using the origin, authority, structure, context, and corroborative value of the sources to guide

the selection.

D4.1.6-8. Construct arguments using claims and

evidence from multiple sources, while acknowledging the strengths and limitations of

the arguments.

D4.1.9-12. Construct arguments using precise

and knowledgeable claims, with evidence from multiple sources, while acknowledging counterclaims and evidentiary weaknesses.

D4.6.6-8. Draw on multiple disciplinary lenses to analyze how a specific problem can manifest itself at local, regional, and global levels over time,

identifying its characteristics and causes, and the challenges and opportunities faced by those trying to address the problem.

D4.6.9-12. Use disciplinary and interdisciplinary lenses to understand the characteristics and causes of local, regional, and global problems; instances of such problems in multiple contexts; and

challenges and opportunities faced by those trying to address these problems over time and place.

Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)

Middle School

MS-ESS3 Earth and Human Activity


Apply scientific principles to design a method for monitoring and minimizing a human impact on the environment.


Construct an argument supported by evidence for how increases in human population and per-capita consumption of natural resources impact Earth’s systems.

MS-LS2 Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics


Develop a model to describe the cycling of matter and flow of energy among living and nonliving parts of an ecosystem.

High School

HS-ESS3 Earth and Human Activity


Create a computational simulation to illustrate the relationships among management of natural resources, the sustainability of human populations, and biodiversity.

HS-LS2 Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics


Design, evaluate, and refine a solution for reducing the impacts of human activities on the environment and biodiversity.