Pine Cobble students take 2nd place in state bowl, Massachusetts Future Problem Solvers

Written by Christy Richardson on March 26, 2012

MARCH 24, 2012. A team of Pine Cobble fourth and fifth grade students took second place in the state at the Massachusetts Future Problem Solvers’ Club State Bowl, junior division. Future Problem Solvers (FPS) challenges students to develop real-world solutions to some of the world’s most complex problems — from human rights to environmental challenges to global economics.

Future Problem Solvers is a new extracurricular activity at Pine Cobble School, established in January by Williams Fellows Corey Baldwin and Sarah Dewey.

A four-person team of Sophie Lane (fifth grade) Andrea Printz (fifth), Aidan White (fifth), and Jakob Zimmerman (fourth) qualified for the state bowl based on their response to a human rights problem. The topic for the March 24 state bowl was trade barriers.

Going into the day, the only information that the students were given about the future scenario was that it was going to be centered around trade barriers. From the FPS web site:

“Historically, states have relied on trade barriers – such as subsidies for domestic producers, import quotas, and tariffs – to protect domestic economic interests. Many economists have long argued, however, that such barriers can limit potential economic growth, may only benefit certain politically powerful groups like labor unions, and have other harmful effects. To combat these concerns, policymakers around the world have created new treaties and institutions, such as the World Trade Organization, on the theory that reducing trade barriers will increase economic prosperity. But others argue that the benefits of tearing down trade barriers means fewer jobs and lower wages for farmers, factory workers, and relatively less-educated employees. Should policymakers strive for Free Trade or Fair Trade in the future – or some balance of the two?”

Students spent weeks learning about trade barriers by defining the terms (e.g. subsidies, supply and demand, free trade) and reading current event articles. They also spent time speaking with Stephen White, who has a Ph.D. in economics. White explained how America currently utilizes trade barriers, and articulated the debates that surround how and if to implement them.

The students received second place in the overall competition, and third place for their dramatic presentation of their action plan. Most of the schools in the competition have larger student enrollments than PC and have had a FPSPIprogram in place for several years.

” We were blown away by their second place finish,” said Sarah Dewey, who went to the national FPS championships as a child. “They were competing against much larger schools, with more established FPS programs, whereas ours only started in late November.”

Dewey notes that the program is extremely rewarding for students. “They must really consider the current state of the world, and the unintended consequences that can occur as a result of various actions. Implementing the program at Pine Cobble has been both an educating and a rewarding experience. It’s been great to work with Corey and such passionate, excited students.”

FPS prepares students to face the challenges of the coming century by helping them to think critically, creatively, and collaboratively. The program teaches elementary and secondary students to apply problem solving skills to global and community problems. It opens doors to students’ imaginations, leading youngsters to discover rich and varied ways of thinking and to experience the satisfaction of resolving difficult problems with unique solutions. Skills learned can be applied to any curriculum throughout a lifetime. By dealing with problems set in the future, students learn to deal with issues they will encounter as leaders of tomorrow.

Pine Cobble is a coeducational day school founded in 1937. Nestled in a beautiful setting originally designed as an estate by Olmsted Associates, Pine Cobble supports intellectual rigor, curiosity, and creativity within a caring community. A fundamental tenet of the Pine Cobble experience is character education; nine character pillars — compassion, gratitude, respect, honesty, responsibility, patience, self-control, courage, and cooperation are woven into every aspect of the students’ lives. The School currently serves 125 students, ages two-years-nine-months through ninth grade, from Berkshire County, southern Vermont, and eastern New York.

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