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Solving problems has its rewards

Sts Peter and Paul's Future Problem Solving champions celebrate with their
coach Carolyn Burchill

A TEAM of students from Sts Peter and Paul’s School, Bulimba, are off to America in 2018 thanks to a win at the national finals of the Future Problem Solving program in Sydney.

Year 6 students Anna McAuley, Lydia McCarthy, Celeste Deforce and Georgia Piggott were named champions in their division at the national finals of the international educational program, which challenges students to apply creative and lateral thinking skills to world issues.

The students took part in the Global Issues Problem Solving section, competing against 13 other teams from primary schools across Australia.

Sts Peter and Paul’s coach, Carolyn Burchill, said the task given to students at the national finals was a challenging one that required each team to respond in a two-hour ‘lock-down’ period to an unknown, future scene relating to a particular global issue.

This year’s global issue was “identity theft”.

Carolyn said the team generated 16 possible challenges they saw in the future scene, identified an underlying problem, offered 16 solutions to that problem, judged the solutions according to criteria they set themselves and then wrote up the winning solution as an action plan.

“The afternoon of competition day is spent writing, costuming and acting out their solution action plan in the action plan skit part of the competition,” she said.

As a result of their success at the national finals in Sydney the Sts Peter and Paul’s team, which also included two reserves, Gabrielle Griffin and Annaliese Young, will head to the USA next year to participate in the international conference of the Future Problem Solving program.

“We are so proud of these amazing students, but that would be the case no matter what the outcome from our Future Problem Solving program,” Carolyn said.

“These are truly remarkable students, so it is wonderful that they are recognised as such and now get to show the world what they can do.”

For Carolyn, the greatest benefit of Future Problem Solving was the way it “teaches students how to think, not what to think”.

“I know from speaking to past students that these are the critical thinking skills they take with them to high school and hopefully as a life-long learner,” she said.

The Future Problem Solving program has formed part of the school’s Enrichment Program offered to Year 6 students for more than 10 years.

In that time, the school has had a team participate in the national finals of Future Problem Solving eight times, and in 2015, a team from Sts Peter and Paul’s competed in the international conference in Iowa.

Being part of the team involved hard work, commitment and time on the part of the students and their coach, but they were grateful for the experience and to those who helped them along the way.

“We had to balance schoolwork, extra-curricular activities, homework, research and team meetings,” Celeste said.

“Our coach, Mrs Burchill, was highly dedicated and ensured that we walked into the competition at Knox Grammar in Sydney, prepared and confident.”

Now the students are eagerly looking forward to their international experience where they will connect with and compete against students from various countries at the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse, in June 2018.


Brisbane Catholic Education Office

243 Gladstone Road, Dutton Park Q 4102

GPO Box 1201 Brisbane 4001 Australia

Phone: (07) 3033 7000

Fax: (07) 3844 5101