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Problem solvers put skills to the test at State Bowl

Looking to the future

Posted: Wednesday, April 25, 2007

 

  Kalifornsky Beach Elementary School sixth-graders Joseph Rife, Johnathon Kreider, Jelly Nolden, Heidi Westerman and Travis Perkovich present their team's action plan during the Future Problem Solvers State Bowl on April 16 at Soldotna High School. Photo by Will Morrow

Kalifornsky Beach Elementary School sixth-graders Joseph Rife, Johnathon Kreider, Jelly Nolden, Heidi Westerman and Travis Perkovich present their team's action plan during the Future Problem Solvers State Bowl on April 16 at Soldotna High School.

Photo by Will Morrow

Last week at Soldotna High School, about 75 students in grades four through 12 put their heads together to come up ways to solve future problems regarding the care of a rapidly aging population during the Future Problem Solvers State Bowl.

Their solutions -- and the ways in which they were presented -- were as varied as the number of groups participating. Student teams competing in junior (grades four though six), intermediate (grades seven through nine) and senior (grades 10 through 12) categories researched the broad topic of “Caring for our Elders” prior to the state bowl, which took place Monday and Tuesday. Students went about their research based on the premise that in the future, people will much longer, increasing the need for things such as health care.

During the competition, each group was presented with a “future scene,” from which they were to first identify an underlying problem, then develop an action plan to address the problem. While some students compete individually, the main focus of the state bowl is the team competition, and students work through a six-step process to develop a solution. The process includes:

· Identify challenges related to the topic;

· Select an underlying problem;

· Produce solution ideas to the underlying problem;

· Generate criteria to evaluate solution ideas;

· Evaluate solutions to determine a better action plan; and

· Develop the action plan.

According to Sara Hepner, the Future Problem Solvers Alaska Affiliate Director, working through a problem requires “large doses of creative and critical thinking, communication, persuasive writing, teamwork and time management.”

Teams presented their action plans in skit format to judges, and solutions included strategies to encourage healthy activities like exercise, gambling tournaments to raise funds, lotteries, similar to a draft, to select healthcare workers, new technology to aid in health care, and even a much colder plan to establish a community on Antarctica -- which, according to the students’ reasoning, would be significantly warmer due to climate change -- for every person over the age of 65.

To qualify for the state bowl, student teams worked through two practice problems, on fundraising and charity giving, and protection of national treasures. Following that, they tackled a qualifying problem relating to cultural prejudice.

Teams are judged on the content of their presentation -- how well it relates to their identified underlying problem and action plan -- as well as the creativity of their presentation. Extra points are awarded for a good storyline illustrating the problem and action plan, use of props and quality of acting. Students also earn extra points for incorporating their research during the problem-solving process. The phrase “research shows” is a buzz phrase -- and sometimes a punchline -- for the competition.

Winning Future Problem Solvers teams advance to the international conference, where they will have the opportunity to compete with students in affiliate programs from around the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Korea, Singapore and Japan. The topic for the international problem is “Privacy.” The international conference will take place next month in Fort Collins, Colo.

For more information on Future Problem Solvers, visit www.fpsp.org.

Will Morrow can be reached at will.morrow@peninsulaclarion.com.



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