FUTURE ROBLEM SOLVING :
New Zealand kids can foot it with the best in the world.....and
But are the media interested?
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.
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!
Competition in Georgia
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Intermediate were placed second in the Junior division. Epsom
Girls’ Grammar were fifth in the Middle division, and Birkenhead
College were semifinalists.
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
of Best Solution:
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.
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.
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.
Zealand kids can foot it with the best in the world.....and win!
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09 4389 377