BY MATT MACKINDER
Clarkston News Staff Writer
Over the March 23 weekend, the Clarkston Community Schools’ Future Problem Solvers team traveled to Michigan State University for the State Bowl competition and came home with nine awards.
The team now qualifies for the Future Problem Solving International Conference in June in Massachusetts.
They will be researching on the topic of de-extinction to prepare.
“It is crazy,” said sixth-grade team member Abby Finnerty. “I wasn’t expecting to win. This isn’t something an average FPS team experiences. I’m so excited to go to internationals. The win was amazing, and I hope many more teams get to experience it.”
“It’s hard to describe how it feels to win at MSU,” added another sixth-grade team member, Luke Agar. “It’s an amazing thing because of how hard my team and I worked on not only this topic (coping with stress) but all the others. We worked together and worked hard and now we’re heading to Internationals.”
A third sixth grader, Ella Reed, said, “I didn’t know if we could pull it off, but we worked really hard on the booklet, so I knew we had a good chance at winning.”
This year’s FPS group is comprised of 44 students in grades sixth through 10th. The international program consists of opportunities to work individually and in teams. This year, Clarkston had the majority of FPS students participate in the team Global Problem Solving event, and had students submit creative writing scenarios under the coaching of Nikki Kurmaniak.
According to coach and Sashabaw Middle School teacher Kristine Butcher, the Global Problem Solving aspect is where each of the four-person teams compete to respond to a futuristic scenario, using a six-step writing model. The topics vary, and the team practiced with “Mission to Moon, Mars and Beyond,” “Drones,” and “Food Loss and Waste.”
“Our teams meet each month to research the topic and prepare to write a six-step booklet,” Butcher said. “The competition really highlights students’ critical thinking skills, team collaboration abilities, and on-demand writing skills.”
Winning big honors at MSU made Butcher feel “extremely proud.”
“My assistant coach, Monica Phillips (also a teacher at SMS), and I stepped into coaching this year after our longtime district coach, Sue Banworth, retired,” explained Butcher. “We were very surprised that all 10 of our Clarkston teams were invited to participate at the State Bowl. And then to bring home nine awards to the district made it even sweeter. We’re so proud of all of them.
“This year’s group is refreshing. Over half of the students are new members to FPS, but they are eager and engaged. This brings an enthusiasm to the teams that make it fun to help them grow and work together.”
Butcher said that FPS is an activity that has stood the test of time.
“Future Problem Solving has been a longstanding enrichment opportunity for students in Clarkston,” she said. “Many of our current students joined in sixth or seventh grade, but some years we have had high school students coaching fourth- and fifth-grade teams. The Clarkston program grew this year to go beyond team problem solving with a group having had interest in writing futuristic scenarios. There is also a Community Problem Solving component that some of the students have expressed interest in pursuing. Each year, we try to accommodate the students’ interests toward the FPS program.”