We jumped into the game quite late (and the waters were d-e-e-p), we trudged through a mountain of challenging materials (with a very steep curve) and we just kept trusting we were making progress (even though we weren’t even always certain what was around the bend). With the help of master problem solver Mr. Dan Baise and the patience of eager students, our 4th and 5th grade Future Problem Solvers completed the qualifying problem and were invited to attend the State Bowl!
Though we didn’t score any competitive victories at the bowl, the students all agree they gained valuable experience from attending and competing. “It was hard sometimes and I thought about quitting,” said one member. Another agreeed and said, “Students should know if they stick with it they’ll love it. You’ll study new and interesting topics, learn team work, make new friends, have new experiences and learn how to solve challenting problems.” Sticking with it led to the first time experience for all of us.
On Friday afternoon, April 16, students attended the opening ceremonies of the 22nd Virginia State Future Problem Solving Bowl at Granby High School in Norfolk, Virginia. Immediately following the ceremony, they were sent to their room where they would spend two unassisted hours on the future scene about Ocean Soup–the island of trash larger than the size of Texas swirling around the pacific and threatening the lives of living creatures. The future scene provided a hypothetical but probable scenario projected 25 years into the future in which the planet and its inhabitants are faced with the overwhelming problem of plastic trash floating in the ocean. It breaks down into smaller pieces but it never goes away.
Students had to comb the page-long scenario searching for 16 possible challenges. They then had to choose just one challenge and write an underlying problem. Sixteen varied and creative ideas to solve the problem had to be generated. They then had to create criteria to help them choose just one of their ideas to turn into a solution and write an action plan. All this on their own and in just two hours!
Dinner was served to the hungry problem solvers and then they were given the task of creating a four minute skit that used limited materials and a choice of quotes to illustrate their action plan. They had from 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 a.m. to put together a skit that was creative, humorous and clearly tied to their underlying problem and action plan and then they had to perform it on stage for a group of strangers. Coaches Cutbertson and Cabotaje and the students’ family members couldn’t have been more proud of their courage as the team rose to the challenge and pulled off a great performance! Following lunch in Norfolk and the announcement of the winners at a closing ceremony, the team headed home at 3:30 on Saturday afternoon with a state bowl under their belts and excited about the possibilities for next year! We adults can have a little more hope for the future as these young students learn skills to solve the problems of generations to come.