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Kids these days

February 16, 2009

by Jenni Sebora

“Minnesota doesn’t like to brag. We use our actions and show people what we can do.”

This is what the gifted and talented coordinator of a St. Cloud school and the region’s future problem solving program coordinator told the future problem solvers in this past regional competition.

“The best of the best are here, and today is your day to show us what you can do,” the coordinator announced to the participants.

These young people included elementar-aged children, fourth through sixth graders, middle schoolers and some high school teams, as well.

Future problem solving is about working together, formulating ideas, sifting through the best, and generating solutions. This team-oriented program uses the same problem-solving process as businesses and industries use to solve issues.

The teams, consisting of usually four members with an alternative, put their minds together to come up with solutions, and ultimately choose one best decision, to hopefully solve the problem at hand.

And the problems presented are not small problems; rather, they envelope the universe.

This year’s topic: space junk – what it can do to our universe, its inhabitants, and what we can do about it.

In a set time frame, the teams must basically write up a plan, a procedure, following guidelines and steps they must follow.

Part of the competition also involves each team presenting the solution in the format of a skit within four minutes, with props (tin foil, gloves, pillow cases, etc.) and an at-large prop that they are given a few minutes before they present the skit. Using imaginations and quick thinking, teams must somehow coordinate the unexpected prop including the verbalization of the prop’s name into their skit.

It really is about the process, the team problem-solving process. And it is such a delight and a proud moment to watch our future professionals and workers and mothers and fathers put their skills to work.

I am always amazed at the creativity, imagination, wit, and intelligence that are shown by these young people. It makes one proud and refreshed, optimistic and excited to know that these talented young people will be running our future.

As I watched each skit, I thought, “This is really not about one team beating out another team. It is about the talent that exudes each of these individuals and what each of these young individuals will bring to the world in which we live.”

We need each one. Some may be doctors. Some may be engineers. Some may be political leaders, teachers, scientists, geologists, biologists, dentists, entertainers, and the list goes on.

It is not about one group winning and another losing. It is about collectively putting our minds together for the greater good, bringing together individual talents to solve problems and make our world a better, safer place.

That is what I thought as I watched these fine young people in action. I felt hope for our future.

So, as we hear about the negative actions of some of our young – the “kids these days” comments, let us not forget, rather, be exuberant about what good things our children are doing – who they are and what they may become. There are a lot of kids doing a lot of great things, and we have to all take the time to observe our children in action and let them know how proud we are of them. I was proud of each one of these young people, even the ones I did not know.

“A child is not a vase to be filled, but a fire to be lit.”—Rabelais

“When I approach a child, he inspires in me two sentiments; tenderness for what he is, and respect for what he may become.”

– Louis Pasteur