A team of Year 6 students from Sts Peter and Paul’s Primary School, Bulimba, in Brisbane were named champions in their division at last month’s national finals of the Future Problem Solving program, an international educational program which challenges students to apply creative and lateral thinking skills to world issues.
The winning team of Anna McAuley, Lydia McCarthy, Celeste Deforce and Georgia Piggott participated in the Global Issues Problem Solving section of the program, competing against 13 other teams from primary schools across Australia.
Sts Peter and Paul’s coach, Carolyn Burchill, said the task given to students at the national finals is a challenging one which requires each team to respond in a two-hour ‘lock-down’ period to an unknown, future scene relating to a particular global issue. This year’s global issue was “identity theft”.
“The team endeavours to generate 16 possible challenges they see in the future scene, identify an underlying problem, offer 16 solutions to that problem, judge the solutions according to criteria they set themselves, and then write up the winning solution as an action plan,” explained Carolyn.
“The afternoon of competition day is spent writing, costuming and acting out their solution action plan in the action plan skit part of the competition.”
As a result of their success at the national finals held in Sydney over the weekend October 20-22, the Sts Peter and Paul’s team, which also included two reserves, Gabrielle Griffin and Annaliese Young, will head to the USA next year to participate in the international conference of the Future Problem Solving program.
“We are so proud of these amazing students, but that would be the case no matter what the outcome from our Future Problem Solving program,” said Carolyn.
“These are truly remarkable students, so it is wonderful that they are recognised as such and now get to show the world what they can do.”
For Carolyn, the greatest benefit of Future Problem Solving is the way it “teaches students how to think, not what to think”.
“I know from speaking to past students that these are the critical thinking skills they take with them to high school and hopefully as a life-long learner,” she said.
Good Samaritan Sister Ann-Maree Nicholls, Principal of Sts Peter and Paul’s, is also a strong advocate of the Future Problem Solving program which has formed part of the school’s Enrichment Program offered to Year 6 students for over ten years. In that time, the school has had a team participate in the national finals of Future Problem Solving eight times, and in 2015, a team from Sts Peter and Paul’s competed in the international conference in Iowa.
“Future Problem Solving is an international educational program for students of all ages, focusing on the development of critical, creative and futuristic thinking skills,” said Ann-Maree.
“The program challenges students to apply their minds to some of the significant issues facing the world of today and the future, equipping them with the vision, skills and tools to design and promote positive futures for the society in which they live.”
Eleven-year-old Celeste Deforce, one of the Sts Peter and Paul’s 2017 championship team members, said Future Problem Solving had “opened a whole new door to different perspectives on learning”.
“Whenever I read something now, I look at the topic through the eyes of the Future Problem Solving program as I try to learn more about a topic, look out for possible challenges and how these could be solved in the future,” she said.
Anna McAuley, age 11, can also see how the program has benefitted her.
“By doing Future Problem Solving this year, I can confidently say that my writing has improved. While studying numerous different topics and attempting to find unique perspectives, FPS challenged me,” she said.
“The relationships I formed with the other students in the team were an especially important part of the program. It helped my friendships blossom in and out of the school.”
Being involved in the Sts Peter and Paul’s FSP Team has involved hard work, commitment and time on the part of the students and their coach, but the girls are grateful for the experience and to those who helped them along the way.
“We had to balance schoolwork, extra-curricular activities, homework, research and team meetings,” said Celeste.
“Our coach Mrs Burchill was highly dedicated and ensured that we walked into the competition at Knox Grammar in Sydney, prepared and confident.”
Now the students are eagerly looking forward to their international experience where they will connect with and compete against students from various countries at the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse, in June 2018.
“As time has gone on I have realised how wonderful an opportunity we have,” said Anna.
“It took a while to sink in, but a few days ago I woke up in the middle of the night and it really hit me. We are actually off to the USA to compete internationally.”