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Future Problem Solvers

Members of the MRMS Future Problem Solvers team, Hanna Hatala, Gwyn Kelleher, Olivia Gartz and Chamberlain LeDoyen hold their winning trophy.

Science fiction has the uncanny ability, at times, to predict what may happen in the future. This genre takes existing technologies and current issues and extrapolates them into a futuristic scene, sometimes as a warning as to the effects our creations will have on mankind. In a similar way, Future Problem Solving International  and the North Carolina Future Problem Solvers (NC FPS) challenge students to generate underlying problems and proposals to those problems set forth in future scenarios. The students work year round in preparation for a culminating competition on the state level. The process involves a six-step model which is aligned with National Curriculum Standards and with the National Association for Gifted Children Standards. The scenarios the students must evaluate involve critical thinking skills in order to deem an underlying problem. The group then works together in writing an action plan that sets forth a solution to their underlying problem. Teams consist of four members who ideally are of differing personalities, talents, skills, and thought processes.   Each individual contributes in order to benefit the group and to the benefit of solving the problem. The training for this team begins early in the year and they are able to practice the process and approach in several different categories and scenarios. Students must research and investigate three to five topics in three category areas: Science/Technology, Social/Political and Business/Economics. Through the course of the year, a team must complete three booklets which are then sent to the NC FPS office for evaluation. The team is given feedback from evaluators so that students may continue to refine their analytical and writing skills. Those teams with the best performance based on the Qualifying Problem compete in the NC FPS State Bowl.

This year, a team of four eighth grade female students representing Marvin Ridge Middle School qualified for and competed in the 2011 NC FPS State Bowl in Banner Elk, NC, on April 1, 2011: Olivia Gartz, Hanna Hatala, Gwyn Kelleher, and Chamberlain LeDoyen. Coached by Cindy Gartz, an experienced FPS coach and evaluator, this team practiced weekly in anticipation of the state bowl. Each girl brought a unique talent and skill to the dynamic of the group, which allowed for a strong, harmonious unit. Upon arrival the team began thinking and solving. Behind closed doors, sans coach, the girls faced a complex future scenario. Although participants knew the general topic prior to the bowl, none knew the specifics. With only two hours, the Marvin Ridge team had to work together to outline sixteen potential underlying problems, and then, choose one on which to focus and to propose a solution. The team did not have access to research, so they relied heavily upon each individual’s practical knowledge as well as previously researched material based on the already disclosed topic. After establishing which underlying problem the team would solve, they quickly deliberated and outlined why their solution would work. Once this stage of the competition was complete, students patiently waited for the results the following day.
On Saturday, they also competed by showing how their solution addressed the underlying problem discerned from the future scene. In this competition, teams state their underlying problem and then show how they will solve it. Each team was given a bag of materials to use and there were three additional items teams could use as part of their performance. Points were awarded to teams for use of props, creative use of props, clarity of solution and connection to the underlying problem submitted by the team, creativity of presentation, and costuming. The MRMS team worked most of the previous night and awakened early to rehearse again, as the competition for the skit took place at mid-morning. Playing off of a Nemo-inspired theme, the girls creatively showed their solution and how it addressed their underlying problem using the right amount of humor and song. The costumes and props showed extraordinary thought and creativity, and the script they created showed clearly how their solution would address their underlying problem. Their efforts earned them a first place win in both categories.

Written by: Jan Anderson
Posted: Apr 29, 2011 by Brita Mann

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