Kids say the darnedest things! And sometimes they find creative solutions that adults could not imagine. Read more from Regina Fraser and Pat Johnson:
What happens when 2,000 kids from around the world show up in Ames, Iowa to solve world problems? They get solved, and by some of the brightest kid’s who are between 10 – 18 years old!
Recently, my husband and I accompanied our 10-year-old granddaughter to the international competition of “Future Problem Solvers Program International” (FPSPI), held at Iowa State University. It was a four-day academic competition that frankly, we had never heard of. As a student at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic School in Indianapolis, she participated in the Junior Level (grades 4-6), state competition and although her team came in fifth overall, it was a learning opportunity for her. But the Middle Level (grades 7-8) team from her school took first place and qualified for the international competition.
My granddaughter was asked to be an alternate for the Middle team, and she jumped at it! FPSPI attendees are known as academic stars — similar to sport stars at their schools. So of course we were happy that our granddaughter was selected to be a participant.
Doing a little research, we discovered that the program was in its 40th year and was started by Dr. E. Paul Torrance, a creative thinker and teacher. It was his idea to create a program that taught youngsters to tackle heavy- duty problems that affect all of us, and ask the students to solve them. His technique, based on a six-step process required them to research issues, analyze and prioritize the material and come up with a solution. This was team building at its best and competing with like youngsters from all over the world added another dimension – a truly cultural and global experience. The problems would be complex, and the solutions could actually be adopted and applied.
Observing the sessions as the kids tackled their assigned problem (2014’s problem dealt with space), I started thinking that this planet has a lot of problems. And those of us who are suppose to leave it in better shape than we found it are, well… getting a failing grade. We can’t seem to talk with each other about how to solve issues and disputes; we are quick to use guns to resolve petty disagreements and bombs, rockets and terror tactics to make our points and feelings known. No one wants to talk, everyone wants to react, as in shoot first and talk later. Our elected government officials fail to agree on even seemingly nonpartisan, common sense issues like fixing our nations infrastructure. Watching these kids I thought, I bet my 10-year-old granddaughter and her friends can find a solution — they are trained future problem solvers.
Another problem that needs solving is that girls in many cultures are denied a formal education when they reach puberty, and are then forced into early marriages. Many are kidnapped, (Boko Haram terrorist in Nigeria as an example) and are pressed into being a part of an international human traffic ring.
At the Community FPSPI session (a competition that allows FPSPI students to tackle an issue they are passionate about), I met a 12-year old girl named Claire Curtis from Kentucky, who started a campaign named “Help Haseena Dream”, a project to stop human trafficking of girls. A well-defined program with a lot of thought put into how to bring awareness to the problem. Claire is one of my hero’s – and she is only 12.
Talking to my 10-year-old granddaughter about saving the world.
Future Problem Solving Program International charters Affiliate Programs (http://www.fpspi.org/FindAD.html), are throughout Australia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, United Kingdom, and United States. For students in an area without an FPSPI Affiliate Program, FPSPI offers a mentoring program (British Columbia, Hong Kong, India, Israel, Portugal, Shanghai, South Africa, Switzerland, Thailand, and Turkey are currently Mentored Regions).
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