Freehold Borough problem-solvers to compete in Iowa

By CLARE MARIE CELANO
Correspondent

 Eight pupils from the Freehold Borough K-8 School District Future Problem Solving Program International will travel to Iowa State University in June to take part in an international competition.  PHOTO COURTESY OF FREEHOLD BOROUGH K-8 SCHOOL DISTRICT Eight pupils from the Freehold Borough K-8 School District Future Problem Solving Program International will travel to Iowa State University in June to take part in an international competition. PHOTO COURTESY OF FREEHOLD BOROUGH K-8 SCHOOL DISTRICT Eight students from the Freehold Borough K-8 School District Future Problem Solving Program International will travel to Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa, in June to take part in an international competition.

One team of pupils and one individual pupil qualified for the international competition when they participated in the New Jersey State Bowl at Kean University, Union, on March 14, Superintendent of Schools Rocco Tomazic said.

The Future Problem Solving Program International (FPSPI) conference will take place at Iowa State University from June 11-14. Tomazic said the topic for the event is intellectual property.

At the state event, Freehold Intermediate School eighth-grader Evan Ciok placed first in Individual Problem-Solving: Middle Division.

The team of students, who call themselves “Minds of Steel,” placed second in Team Problem-Solving: Junior Division.

The “Minds of Steel” team members are William Edwards, grade six, Freehold Intermediate School; Lauren Nonnenmacher, grade six, Freehold Intermediate School; Andrea Sandoval, grade six, Freehold Intermediate School; Jillian Laberdee, grade six, Freehold Intermediate School; Shaun Hirsch, grade five, Park Avenue Elementary School; Alina Zaman, grade five, Park Avenue Elementary School; and Brianna Reilly, grade five, Freehold Learning Center.

“We are extremely proud of our students,” Tomazic said. “They have worked exceptionally hard in qualifying for this event [in Iowa]. The experience will be like nothing else they have experienced. Each student will gain a sense of the world and the positive impact they can have on it. I know they will represent Freehold Borough magnificently.”

According to the superintendent, FPSPI engages students in creative problem-solving. The program stimulates critical- and creative-thinking skills and encourages students to develop a vision for the future and resolve complex problems with unique solution ideas.

There are affiliated programs in Australia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Portugal, Singapore and the United Kingdom. Nonaffiliated teams from Guatemala, Hong Kong, India, Ireland, Israel, Qatar, South Africa, Switzerland, Thailand and Turkey will also participate. The international conference features four days of competitive problem-solving, cooperative educational seminars and social activities, according to Tomazic.

He said in the Junior and Middle divisions, there were 86 competitors in New Jersey this school year, of which 36 students earned the right to participate in the 2015 State Bowl.

“Freehold Borough’s team ‘Minds of Steel’ competed against 14 other New Jersey teams in the Junior Division and came in second place,” Tomazic said. “In the Middle Division individual competition, Evan Ciok placed first among three other competitors at the New Jersey State Bowl. More than 80 teams in all divisions competed in the State Bowl at Kean University.”

Tammy Ciok, who facilitates the program for the school district, said, “I am so proud to see the looks of wonder and excitement in the students’ eyes and the enthusiasm they exhibit as they learn about and tackle topics not usually discussed at the elementary school level, such as processed foods, the impact of social media on the public, propaganda and enhancing human potential.”

For example, Ciok explained that in considering the topic of propaganda, the students researched the impact of advertising, including World War II media, Dr. Seuss books and political illustrations, as well as current advertising and children’s books to come up with several conclusions.

She said the students’ research eventually led them to qualify to compete in the international competition.

The FPSPI has been incorporated into the district’s extracurricular activities as part of the program for gifted and talented pupils. This will be the first time Freehold Borough youngsters will attend the international competition since 2009.

Ciok said the trip to Iowa will cost about $14,000. Donations are being accepted through the Freehold Borough Education Foundation and may be sent to FBEF c/o 6 Hance Blvd., Freehold, NJ 07728. Contributions will be tax-deductible. Note on memo line of check: FPSP.