Middle School News

Commodities and Conflict: Biennial World's Fair Inspires Conversation


What do salt, chocolate, gold, and tobacco have in common? Each commodity is both treasured by the western world, and is often found at the center of conflict within its place of origin. Every two years, Nueva’s seventh- and eighth-grade students present the World’s Fair, the pinnacle of a semester–long dive into an issues of globalization. This year, students researched the international conflicts that arise as a result of sourcing high-demand commodities.

When asked about the greatest challenge associated with the Nueva World’s Fair, biology teacher Tom McFadden said, “A lot of what the students are doing is interdisciplinary, deep-thinking, graduate-level work.”

Each culmination project comprises three parts: research into the origins of a commodity, a triple bottom line proposal, and a live panel discussion that takes place on the night of culmination. As eighth grader Miki Y. explained, “The triple bottom line is when a solution addresses economic, social, and environmental issues.” Miki represented Japan, and her proposal was an aquaponics solution to farmland scarcity. A stroll through the library revealed a ceiling covered with banners presenting triple bottom line proposals for countries worldwide. 

After all of their deep thinking and hard work, on culmination night the students were eager to share their findings with classmates and guests. The café and outdoor spaces were full of tri-fold posters displaying facts, data, and poetry written from the perspective of corrupted commodities. Highlighting the interdisciplinary nature of the project, each poster was accompanied by a sculpture that brought beauty and space for reflection to subject matter that was often intense and full of human and environmental conflict.

Throughout the evening, student-driven panels occupied several rooms in the J building. Topics included corruption, international politics, and discussions of current events. Following a Model United Nations approach, each student acted as an ambassador for his or her country.

The panels provided an opportunity for students to showcase the depth of their research and place their understanding in a larger context. Sometimes proof of research comes only moments after introduction: “Hi, I am Callisto and I am representing Chad. Chad is technically a democracy ... but our president just won his fifth term.” Laughter filled the room and the mood was set for an evening of intellectual banter.


“This is a discussion of sorts, panelists should feel free to ask questions and respond,” one moderator said. Teachers usually initiated the conversation with starting questions. However, it did not take long for the discussion to evolve. Fellow Nueva students in the audience kept the inquiry bubbling, and families and faculty often ran out of time before they ran out of questions.

For the first time, part of the World’s Fair culmination took place outside, where the J-Plaza courtyard was decorated with twinkling lights. The evening kicked off with a candle-lighting ceremony, as it was the first night of Hanukkah.

The World’s Fair is a biennial event. During the 2018–2019 school year, our seventh- and eighth-grade classes will participate in the Silk Road Bazaar.

Learn more about the process leading up to the Nueva World’s Fair or read in depth about previous World's Fair culminations. View the partial student reading list below.


The 2018 Biennial World's Fair


Partial Student Reading List


Salt by Mark Kurlansky
Tobacco by Iain Gately
Globalization in World History by Peter N. Stearns
Uncommon Grounds by Mark Pendergrast
A World History of Rubber by S

tephen L. Harp
Two Sides to the Coin: A History of Gold by Adam Wasserman
The True History of Chocolate by Sophie D. Coe and Michael D. Coe


Have you heard of the Visible Learning Project? Visit the Visible Learning Project on campus or online to learn more about rare commodities.

January 10, 2018

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