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Local Students Think 'Outside the Box' to Solve World Problems

Twelve Peachtree Corners students earn honors at international conference held June 9-12.

A dozen students from Peachtree Corners have taken the concept of thinking "outside the box” to a whole new level – an international level…with honors.

Future Problem Solving Program International (FPSPI) is a program founded in 1974 by creativity pioneer, Dr. E. Paul Torrance.  The program, now part of the Gifted Student curriculum in Gwinnett County Public School's Norcross cluster, is designed to engage students in creative problem solving. Students utilize a six-step problem solving process to explore challenges and propose action plans to complex societal problems. 

Norcross High School student Allison Fisher, a rising 11th grader, has been participating in the program since she was in 4th grade.  This summer she was one of the 12 students who took part in the 2011 Future Problem Solving Program International Conference on the campus of the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse, where she earned 5th place honors in the Senior Division for Individual Global Issues Problem Solving.

Along with Fisher, this year's future problem solvers included: Pinckneyyville Middle School rising 7th graders Hallie Carton, Claire Doroff, Teresa Flynn and Jennifer Wang, along with Simpson Elementary student Jessica Cmeil, placed 2nd in the Junior Division for Presentation of Action Plan.

Pinckneyville Middle School rising 8th graders Ian Campbell, Ryan Lockhorst, Caroline Reidy and Lindsey Song participated in the Middle Division Team Global Problem Solving Competition. Eliza Antonowich and Brantley Evans participated in the Alternates Competition.

The topic for this year’s international competition was Emergency Preparedness.

“We have two hours to come up with a bunch of problems related to the scenario,” Fisher explains, “and then pick the biggest problem and then come up with a bunch of solutions.”

The students then create criteria by which the solutions are judged, elaborating on those solutions to justify their position. Fisher says being a part of FPSPI helps her in all areas of study.

Simpson Elementary School teacher, Kathy Russo, has been teaching since 1973.  She is passionate about FPSPI and incorporates the program into her classroom curriculum as much as she can, as early as she can – even as early as 4th grade. Russo taught Fisher when Fisher was at Simpson Elementary and says the program stimulates critical and creative thinking skills and encourages students to develop a vision for the future.

“It is a very rigorous curriculum even for gifted kids,” says Russo, “and what I’m amazed at is that they want to do the program.”

She explained that after some of the students in this particular group left her class in grade school, they discovered that the program wasn’t offered in middle school.  So, they took the skills that they had already learned by the 5th grade, addressed the matter - using the six-step problem solving process - and presented their middle school administrators with the idea and the plan to offer the program. 

Their middle school administrators were so impressed that they accepted the students’ proposal.  When Fisher started at Norcross High School, she, again, approached the administration with her plan and convinced the administration to back FPSPI as a program for Norcross High gifted students as well.

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