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Sugar House Journal

Future Problem Solvers at Highland Park Elementary

Jun 14, 2016 08h52 ● By Natalie Mollinet

Photo credit by Elizabeth Suggs - FPS is an impactful program that bridges the learning gaps.

Natalie Mollinet | [email protected] 

Offered at Highland Park Elementary as a way to help kickstart problem solving, the FPS, or Future Problem Solving, is an impactful program  for students who exceed past the average and wish to continue moving forward through their education.

FPS is the generic term for the program. There’s also FPSPI, or Future Problem Solving International, which is a non-profit organization based in Fla and services 40 affiliate programs that not only include the United States, but 19 other countries around the world. The other problem solving program is CmPS, or Community Problem Solving (Teams and Individuals participating in this). 

“Utah has been an Affiliate of FPSPI, which allows them to be, among other things,” Pam Krieps, part of the Extended Learning Program (ELP), said. “Part of the FPSPI organization, to use FPSPI materials for teaching problem solving as classroom curriculum and/or coaching students for competition in state and possibly International Future Problem Solving competitions.” 

The Utah FPS is a non-profit organization with board members as volunteers who meet quarterly to administer and run the FPS program for individuals and student teams who wish to register in the fall. The Board members must evaluate team’s topics three times a year that are given in order for the students and teams to take part in the competitions. The members also have the chance to organize and run the state FPS Competitive Bowl in March/April, according to Krieps, and have are able to coordinate plans for Utah champions entering the international competition each June. 

Those who want to take part in the Utah FPS have the option of being coached by teachers or parents, thought most students who participate are either from 5th or 6th grade, according to Krieps. 

However, adults are also allowed to take part in FPS, but none are enrolled currently. A few years ago, according to Krieps, a lawyer Jill Powlick competed at Internationals and competed with other adults from around the country and eventually Powlick, along with her team, won 1st place in their division. 

Though it’s not just for students, Highland Park Elementary has centered around their own students to take part in it. Because of this, teachers like, Krieps, Caralyn Bingham, M.Ed. and part of the ELP, and Sydney Mcdonald, also part of the ELP, have the ability to help the students become creative future problem solvers for themselves and the world. 

“The students are required to think creatively because they are looking for multiple (16) problems in a given story or situation then they narrow it down to the most critical problem (the underlying problem) and then brainstorm 16 possible solutions.” Bingham said. “The creativity comes in generating that many problems and solutions.”

Students then take this and can either bring this knowledge to the competitions or keep it to create, as Mcdonald put it, “real world problem solving.” 

“Students can practice with FPS for real world problems when they grow up because they, identify the problem, determine the outcome or the problems with the problem, focus on the one problem they will address, generate the solutions, set criteria, rate and finally determine which solutions is the best, the most humane and have an action plan.” Mcdonald said. 

More than just that, according to Mcdonald, is the idea that the students can start “thinking like adults.” It’s because it, according to Mcdonald, not only creates critical thinking, but gives the students a chance to “engage” in their learning.

“[FPS] gives them ownership when they come up with the solutions instead of the adults.” Mcdonald said. “This is called “well-dipping,” when the answer comes FROM the students instead of TO them. It is more meaningful to have made the CONTRIBUTION to the cause.”