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Crain School students find there is a solution to every problem

By JULIAN CAVAZOS
March 17, 2010 at midnight
Updated March 21, 2010 at 10:22 p.m.

Holly McCutcheon, the Future Problem Solvers teacher at Crain Middle School, answers questions from her students. McCutcheon's students qualified for state with their problem-solving skills.

SIX-STEP PROBLEM SOLVING METHOD

Step 1: Brainstorming possible challenges

Step 2: Identifying an underlying problem

Step 3: Brainstorming alternative solutions

Step 4: Choosing criteria

Step 5: Evaluating solutions

Step 6: Develop an action plan

Some students at Crain Middle School are trying to find solutions to the world's problems.

The school's seventh-grade and eighth-grade Future Problem Solvers teams are taking their critical thinking skills to state level to compete next month.

Their state topic? Food distribution.

"We're working on how to solve the problems with that," said McKenna Simpson, 13.

Participating Future Problem Solvers teams are part of the Future Problem Solving Program International, where students take a global issue and, using critical and creative thinking, come up with the best solution.

The problem is set sometime in the future.

"It's set into the future, so we have to think ahead of time," McKenna said.

Students have begun researching the different areas of food distribution.

"There are countries with lack of food, and countries with too much food, like America," Heidi said. "Distributing the food is actually a big problem in the world."

Wyatt Marks has been looking at the causes of poor distribution in some areas of the world.

"Natural disaster is also a big problem," Wyatt, 14, said. "It stunts the agriculture of that country or state."

He also identified some possible solutions.

"We need to lower some prices and taxes on food," Wyatt said. "We need more efficient transportation methods for food."

To make it to state, the students at Crain completed two practice problems and one qualifying problem earlier this school year. Trained evaluators scored their work and returned it with feedback.

Both Crain teams had the top score in their division.

The teams must do all their research now since they cannot take anything with them to state except pens, highlighters, a thesaurus and dictionary.

"We put them in a room with other teams and they work their miracles," said Holly McCutcheon, the Crain team coach.

Each team will have two hours to come up with the best action plan using a six-step problem solving method.

The winning team will compete at the international level in Wisconsin on June 13.

"I think we just need to be confident and have faith in our team members and try to get enough research in before state," said Iliana Reyna, 14, team member.

Being in the program has helped Iliana in her everyday life, she said.

"It's a good mindset to have because it'll help you out in every-day situations and be able to find solutions for them," she said.

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