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Freeport middle, high school problem solvers to compete internationally

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Freeport middle, high school problem solvers to compete internationally

FREEPORT — The high school and middle school Future Problem Solving teams came in first place at the state level and have gained a spot in the International Competition in May.

Freeport will represent Maine in the senior and middle divisions of the Future Problem Solving International Conference from May 27 through May 31 at the Michigan State University in East Lansing, Mich. The state competition took place at Freeport High School on April 4, with China Middle School and Maine Central Institute competing against the Freeport teams.

The high school team includes juniors Malia Taggart, Mariah Vitali, Erin Dillon and Kiera Berkemeyer.
The middle school team is made up of Ellyn Pier, Molly Brown, Fiona Harbert and Emma
Egan. This is the second year the middle school team has competed at the international level; it finished eighth out of 60 teams last year. The high school Problem Solvers have been competing for six years as a team.

The Freeport teams have been studying the Olympics, cyber conflict, counterfeit money and space junk and have to research information about pandemic for the international event. The students are taught a six-step problem solving process to challenge their critical and creative thinking skills. Students have to identify 16 problems within a given scenario, and choose the greatest problem. They then create 16 solutions to the problem, identify five criteria to evaluate their solution, score their solutions on a grid, and write an action plan for the best solution.

Seventh grader Harbert said the information is difficult, but interesting. 

"This isn't anything we are taught in school," she said. "I like learning about these topics because it is new material."

Classmates Egan and Brown said they too enjoy being a part of the Future Problem Solving team.

"I like working with my friends," Egan said. "We learn how to work and cooperate with each other."

Brown said she enjoys the mental challenge of the competitions.

"This program challenges my mind, and forces me to think outside the box," she said. "We are learning about topics we wouldn't have studied before."

The Freeport teams are coached by Karin Gamache, the gifted and talented teacher at the high school and middle schools.

"This is a lot of very difficult information for the students to learn," she said. "They really do well with the research and retaining all the information." 

The teams will compete against other students from the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Hong Kong, Korea and Singapore.

In order to get to the event, the groups must raise about $7,000. They have just started fundraising and said they plan to sell whoopie pies and hold a raffle for $1 a ticket.

The middle school team said they are "definitely" going to participate next year, and are looking forward to the competition.

Donations can be made to Freeport Middle School, c/o Karin Gamache, FPS Coach, 19 Kendall Lane, Freeport, ME 04032, or email Gamache at karin_gamache@coconetme.org

Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or aanderson@theforecaster.net