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2000 Robyn Boswell: Future Problem Solving - NZ kids foot it

2000 Alan Cooper: Thinking to learn

2000 Gwen Gawith: Information literacy in action at SCONZ

2000 Gwen Gawith: Blooming questions

1999 Art Costa: An interview with Art Costa

1999 Robyn Boswell: International Future Problem Solving success

1999 Gwen Gawith: The survival of the book: Co-existing with Gog and Magog

1999 Gwen Gawith: Lost the plot: Reading for what?

1999 Gwen Gawith: Rushkoff and visual literacy

1999 Gwen Gawith: KFL: Knowledge Free learning?

1998 Gwen Gawith: Ban projects: Teach information literacy

1998 Gwen Gawith: The cry for deep learning…

1998 Gwen Gawith: The Mercury model of information literacy

1998 David Hyerle: Thinking literacy in an age of ICT

1998 Pauline Donaldson: A virtual classroom with 3500 students

1997 Jeff Bruce and Gwen Gawith: information literacy and Infolink

1997 Gwen Gawith: How to ? or not to?: That is the ?

1997 Gwen Gawith: Unlocking learning: Key words

1996 Gwen Gawith: Epistemic fluency or the cognitive trots!

1995 Gwen Gawith: A serious look at self-efficacy: waking beeping Slooty!

1993 Gwen Gawith: The National Curriculum and the information process

information literacy:
learning & thinking

New Zealand kids can foot it with the best in the world.....and win!

But are the media interested?

Robyn Boswell

National Director, Future Problem Solving New Zealand

In June this year, New Zealand’s contingent of 32 Future Problem Solving representatives travelled to Athens in Georgia, USA to represent NZ in this year’s international competition. Over 2,100 gifted and talented students from around the world attended this prestigious event. Winners from the NZ 1999 nationals competed - teams from Kerikeri Primary School, Nelson College, Maidstone Intermediate School, Kristin School, Avondale College, Epsom Girls Grammar, Napier Intermediate and Birkenhead College.

For the third year in a row our students led the world. To put it in perspective, our closest rivals in terms of awards were Florida which has twice as many teams as the NZ programme and received six awards. Australia received two. Although NZ is the newest country at the international finals, our results over the last three years have outstripped the rest of the world.

Why, then, it is so difficult for us to get publicity for the awesome results of these exceptional students when last week TV news was showing the world championships for the finger tug of war!

The International Competition in Georgia

The University of Georgia is a huge campus, with elegant buildings and leafy trees. The students stayed in the student dorms for nearly a week, giving them a small taste of American college life. The Opening Ceremony was held in a vast auditorium which took on the air of an international marketplace as the students began the ‘swapmeet’ - a tradition at the finals. Team members bring items to swap, making many friends in the process. This year, Wisconsin inflatable cows and flamingo hats from Florida were ‘hot’ items!

The main components of the competition are spread over four days. The students have time to take part in a number of other events and to socialise and make friends. Some teams were seen learning the rudiments of grid-iron, then teaching the Americans rugby - I don’t think the shoe that they were using for a ball made it terribly easy! There were also dances, visits to places of interest and a variety show. There is one criterion for the show; each act must include students from more than one country or state - a great way to engender friendships. Given the limited practice, fitted in around the competitions,We are always amazed at the quality of the performances. Several NZ teams had prepared Maori items. These were put together to make one item. They included karanga, waiata, stick games and a rousing haka from most of the boys. Students from New York joined the haka. A Wisconsin team bravely joined in with the stick games - and managed flawlessly. Two of the International Directors told me after the show how much they respected the knowledge and enthusiasm our NZ students show for their culture.

The highlight of the Opening Ceremony was the attendance of Dr E Paul Torrance, one of the foremost researchers into creativity, who founded the Future Problem Solving programme25 years ago. The Torrance Centre for Creative Studies is situated at the University of Georgia. Although Dr Torrance suffers from ill-health, he spoke to the assembled gathering and there was silence as we all realised that none of us would have been there without his vision. One of the NZ coaches summed it up, suggesting that what Dr Torrance had done was the ultimate Community Problem Solving Project.

Our successes

At the Opening Ceremony Sonia White, a teacher from from Kristin School was awarded the Keith Frampton Award for ‘International Volunteer Coach of the Year’. This award not only recognises Sonia’s outstanding achievements with teams at National and International level (we believe she is the most successful coach in the history of FPS) but also acknowledges the many hours of her own time which she has given to the programme.

Also at the Opening Ceremony, awards were given for the Scenario Writing Competition. In this component, students research one or more of the set topics for the year and write a 1500 word futuristic scenario based on this. Jessica Sheppard from Napier Intermediate School was second in the Junior Division with an outstanding scenario, based on the topic of ‘Undersea Living’. Keri Monks of Kristin School was fifth in the Middle division with her scenario based on ‘Prison Alternatives’.

At the Awards Ceremony on the last day we realised how much NZ teams had made their mark. The competition is fierce with all of the teams at the finals being either national winners from their own countries or state winners, so it is certainly the ‘creme de la creme’ of bright young minds. Our teams competed in every component of the programme and the results were remarkable.

Community Problem Solving:

In this programme students identify a problem which exists in their community, apply the six-step FPS process to this to come up with a plan of action and then implement this plan.

Students from Kerikeri Primary School had been working for 18 months on a project which involved preserving the Kerikeri Stone Store for future generations.They had carried out research which had not been done by any groups and discovered how the store is being damaged by passing traffic. They had lobbied to have the roadway taken away and also spent some time developing a diorama of what the area might look like once the roadway is gone. They had also investigated the possibility of the Basin area becoming a World Heritage site. This team of eleven year olds were awarded the Junior Grand Championship as the best Junior team in the competition.

Kristin School CmPS team had researched problems facing the elderly, particularly on the North Shore. They discovered that there was no radio station catering specifically for this group. They identified a group of seniors with skills, fundraised to buy time on Access Radio and mentored the seniors as they produced a series of radio broadcasts. The team won an award for the best emerging radio programme on Access Radio. The team was placed second in the Human Services category of the Middle Division.

As well as having to set up a display of their project, produce a video or powerpoint display, present documentation of all of their work in a portfolio and take part in a 30-minute interview, the CmPS teams also take part in an on-site competition. This year they listened to a panel of experts discussing the problem of safety in American schools. One of the panel members was a student who had been involved in a school shooting. The team is then given one day to apply their problem solving skills and come up with a feasible plan of action. Both the KeriKeri and Kristin teams won first place for the ‘most feasible plan of action’ in their divisions. Their reports will be presented to a national conference of teachers in America later in the year and will be placed on the Internet.

Future Problem Solving:

Teams work on a set topic; this year it was Genetic Engineering. They get a one page scenario based on the topic, and have two hours to complete a ‘booklet’ applying the 6--step problem solving process to come up with a plan of action solving an underlying problem which they have developed. Competition is intense, so the New Zealand results were particularly satisfying.

Maidstone Intermediate were placed second in the Junior division. Epsom Girls’ Grammar were fifth in the Middle division, and Birkenhead College were semifinalists.

The Epsom Grammar team was coached by a group of senior students who have been in the FPS programme for several years.

As well as the team competition, this year we also had our first individual competing. These students carry out the same process as the teams. Our first individual representative, Chris Egerton, from Nelson College won fourth place in the Senior Individual competition.

Presentation of Best Solution:

Teams which compete in the Booklet competition are also required to make a four-minute dramatic presentation of their Plan of Action which they perform in front of an audience. The teams have two hours to prepare, including making props and costumes from a set list of ‘junk’ items and rehearsing. Nelson College won first place in the Senior Dramatic presentation; runaway winners with a brilliant presentation. Maidstone Intermediate also made it to the finals.

On-site Scenario:

Scenario writers take part in a very challenging on-site competition. They are put into a team with students they have never met before and are then given the one-page scenario which the Future Problem Solving teams are working on. As a group they then have to write a series of scenarios which link together based on the topic. This year they were required to take a variety of differing points of view of the scenario and develop characters to tell their story. Keri Monks of Kristin was in the team which received the award for first place.

I would also like to acknowledge the Avondale College senior team who had a long-term impact on the programme by presenting the international organisers with the challenge of catering for a blind student. Thanks to the experience of the Affiliate Director who acted as a reader/writer, a new international policy is being developed to ensure that teams with blind students are not disadvantaged in the future.

I am often asked by the other directors from around the world what the secret of our success is. I can only answer that it must be the quality of our schools which are prepared to make a commitment to meet the needs of their brightest students by taking on board a demanding yet rewarding academic programme.

Let us not forget that when NZ’s gifted students can be world beaters, we have much to celebrate and be proud of. Now lets give all of our gifted and talented students the challenging and rigorous programmes that they require to have their needs met.

Yes, New Zealand kids can foot it with the best in the world.....and win!

Contact FPS at or

C/- Tai Tokerau Education Centre

Private Bag 9002


phone/fax 09 4389 377