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Community Projects

community-projects-vote-for-me-team

At a Glance

Program Overview

Our Community Projects program encourages students to apply our problem-solving process in their communities to create lasting change.

3 Competition Divisions

Junior – Grades 4 to 6
Middle – Grades 7 to 9
Senior – Grades 10 to 12

Team and Individual Options

Students may work on projects in teams of any size or on an individual basis.

A Current Community Issue

Students identify a real world problem or area of concern they want to address in a community of their choosing.

Student Work Requirements

Students use our problem-solving process when developing their project proposal. They then focus on implementing their project action plan while documenting their progress in a project report and supporting materials like a portfolio.

Non-Competitive Activities

Teachers often integrate Community Projects problem-solving activities into their classroom curriculum and service-learning experiences.

Community Problem Solving

How It Works

Projects build student agency to create lasting change

Students learn to thoroughly research and analyze a real world issue area and apply our proven 6-step problem-solving method to develop a project plan and take action. In addition to increasing engagement in their communities, students gain more choice and voice in their own learning.

Competition Season

Students may take a few months or as much as a year or longer to develop and implement their project. At the affiliate finals, teams present their projects for a chance to attend our annual International Conference in June. If a local affiliate does not offer Community Projects, their students may compete with our Open affiliate.

Authentic Assessment

Registered students receive feedback from their coach and trained evaluators as their project progresses. Our rubric-based evaluations measure the degree to which the project was student-led and developed. It also assesses how well students communicated their project, demonstrated their problem-solving skills, and involved their community.

World Finals Qualification

We invite all regional affiliate champions to attend our International Conference. They compete alongside their peers by submitting final versions of their proposal, report, and video in advance of the event. Further, they showcase their project at the event with a display, their portfolio, and an interview.

student-problem-solver-community-projects-display

Student Showcase

Lifetime skills on display

The skills our students develop ensure they are equipped to solve real problems in their community and future work and life.

Who’s on the Other Side? Project

Online Crimes Against Children
Beyonder Award

2023 Winner
Fatuma and Shyla
(Minnesota)

Volunteering in Food Services Project

Volunteers Declining During Pandemic
Middle Division

2022 Individual Champion
Pranav
(Massachusetts)

“A Girl Like You” STEM Role Models Project

Fewer Women in STEM Careers
Senior Division

2023 Team State Champion
Chloe, Jeslyn, and Rachel
(California)

Project Elements

Learner-focused feedback recognizes skills and success

The feedback from certified evaluators on the three key Community Project elements, as well as the overall work, assesses how well students communicate their learning. Our rubric-based evaluations provide learner-focused feedback through authentic assessment in order to empower continual student growth.

Project Proposal

Students share their overall vision and demonstrate their problem-solving skills by analyzing their area of concern and developing an action plan using our 6-step process. The action plan serves as a roadmap as they implement their project in their chosen community.

Project Report

The report highlights how they organized their work, overcame obstacles, accomplished tasks, and student reflections. Students describe the implementation of their action plan, project modifications, problem solving, and how they impacted their chosen community.

Supporting Materials

Students showcase their creativity as they present their project through multiple media. They compile a portfolio and a video to document and promote their project. In many regions and at the world finals, a tabletop display and interview are required elements of the competition.

Project Management

Free tools for community problem solving

Gain an introductory understanding of project management, as well as tools, techniques, and templates to help students better organize and implement their projects. This guide, made possible through a grant from the Project Management Institute Educational Foundation, supports Community Project program activities from initiation through completion. For those wanting to be eligible for our Excellence in Project Management Award, this is a critical resource.

6-Step Problem-Solving Method

Projects offer opportunities to apply critical and creative thinking

Students use the 5Cs of 21st Century Learning and service-learning standards throughout the Future Problem Solving process. With each project activity, students go well beyond a typical volunteer service project. They gain practice identifying real community issues, taking meaningful action to solve problems, and communicating their thinking and progress.

Area of Concern

Students start by clearly and thoroughly describing the identified community and existing problems they hope to address. They incorporate factual data and observations to demonstrate a research-based analysis of the current community situation.

Challenges Identified

By identifying a variety of the community’s challenges related to the area of concern, students demonstrate their flexibility and insight. They are encouraged to learn from community partners, consider different viewpoints, and be aware of the problems of those directly involved.

Underlying Problem

After analyzing the identified community’s challenges, students narrow their focus to an achievable size to address an important part of the area of concern. They complete the underlying problem step by clearly communicating the desired outcome and need for the project.

Solution Ideas

With their underlying problem selected, students shift to generating solutions to address it. Relevance, variety, and uniqueness are all encouraged.

Determination of Plan

At this point, students move to planning for action in a deliberate manner. They employ an evaluation method, technique, or “thinking tool” of their choice to analyze and identify the most promising ideas for their project.

Action Plan

To complete the proposal, students explain what the project intends to accomplish and propose their plan of action. ​​They describe and develop a complete chronology of strategies and tasks they will follow as they implement their plan. During implementation, students often apply the problem-solving method and tools as they encounter challenges to move their project forward. They reflect on adjustments made to their plan in their project report.

students present at world finals community project on surfer safety
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Projects Completed To Date

FAQs

Questions? Find the answers here.

Find everything else you need to know about Community Projects in our Resources Library. In addition, check the answers to other common Future Problem Solving questions.

Future Problem Solving Students – A Five Year Study

(2016)

A Comparison of Reading and Mathematics Performance Between Students Participating in a Future Problem Solving Program and Nonparticipants

Data from the The Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment (MCA) was collected by Grandview Middle School and provided to Scholastic Testing Service, Inc. for statistical analysis.


Findings reported by Scholastic Testing Service, Inc. Performance data on the MCA was collected from 2010-2014 for students in grade 6 at Grandview Middle School in Mound, MN (Westonka Public School District). Students were identified as either FPS: students participating in a Future Problem Solving program, or Non-FPS: students not participating in the program. Summary statistics using Reading and Mathematics Scaled Scores were developed for each group of students by year and across years. To determine if the mean scores across the years were significantly different, t-tests were used. A Cohen’s d test was then performed to measure the effect of the size of the found differences.

In all cases, students participating in the Future Problem Solving Program performed significantly higher on the MCA in both areas of Mathematics and Reading.

Effects of Group Training in Problem-Solving Style on Future Problem-Solving Performance

(2017)

The Journal of Creative Behavior (JCB) of the Creative Education Foundation

Seventy-five participants from one suburban high school formed 21 teams with 3–4 members each for Future Problem Solving (FPS). Students were selected to participate in either the regular FPS or an enhanced FPS, where multiple group training activities grounded in problem-solving style were incorporated into a 9-week treatment period.

An ANCOVA procedure was used to examine the difference in team responses to a creative problem-solving scenario for members of each group, after accounting for initial differences in creative problem-solving performance, years of experience in FPS, and creative thinking related to fluency, flexibility, and originality. The ANCOVA resulted in a significant difference in problem-solving performance in favor of students in the treatment group (F(1, 57) = 8.21, p = .006, partial eta squared = .126, medium), while there were no significant differences in years of experience or creativity scores. This result led researchers to conclude that students in both groups had equivalent creative ability and that participation in the group activities emphasizing problem-solving style significantly contributed to creative performance.

In the comparison group, a total of 47% had scores that qualified for entry to the state competition. In contrast, 89% of the students in the treatment group had scores that qualified them for the state bowl. None of the teams from the comparison group qualified for the international competition, while two teams from the treatment group were selected, with one earning sixth place.

The results of this study suggest that problem-solving performance by team members can be improved through direct instruction in problem-solving style, particularly when there is a focus on group dynamics.

The Journal of Creative Behavior, Vol. 0, Iss. 0, pp. 1–12 © 2017 by the Creative Education Foundation, Inc. DOI: 10.1002/jocb.176

Future Problem Solving Program International—Second Generation Study

(2011)

“How important was Future Problem Solving in the development of your following skill sets?”

In 2011, a team of researchers from the University of Virginia submitted a report titled “Future Problem Solving Program International—Second Generation Study.” (Callahan, Alimin, & Uguz, 2012). The study, based on a survey, collected data from over 150 Future Problem Solving alumni to understand the impact of their participation in Future Problem Solving as students or volunteers.

 
Percentage of Alumni Rating Important and Extremely Important in Developing Skill Sets
  • 96% Look at the “Big Picture”
  • 93% Critical Thinking
  • 93% Teamwork and Collaboration
  • 93% Identify and Solve Problems
  • 93% Time Management
  • 90% Researching
  • 90% Evaluation and Decision Making
  • 86% Creativity and Innovation
  • 86% Written Communication
 
The report captured alumni’s positive experiences as students in Future Problem Solving and documented that the alumni continued to utilize the FPS-structured approach to solving problems in their adult lives.

Evaluation of the Future Problem Solving Program

(2011)

Data was obtained from 220 coaches, 633 students, 195 parents, and 34 affiliate directors nationally and internationally

The Center for Creative Learning, USA (Treffinger, Selby, and Crumel) completed an international evaluation of Future Problem Solving including three competitive programs (Global Issues, Community Projects, and Creative Writing). Surveys ascertained 1,082 respondents’ views of: the extent to which Future Problem Solving and its programs meet their stated goals, the strengths of the programs and areas for improvement, and the impact of the program on its participants.

All respondents with current experience participating in each program rated a comprehensive list of 11-12 skills using a 5-point Likert scale. The adult groups identified the impact on participating students’ learning and growth, and the students identified what skills their participation helped them with the most.

 
Top 5 Most Impactful Skills Identified by Program

GLOBAL ISSUES

Adults – Coaches and Affiliate Directors (151)

  • Learning about complex issues that will shape the future (4.60)
  • Developing teamwork and collaboration, working together and cooperating with each other (4.39)
  • Fostering critical thinking (the ability to sort and sift information or to focus one’s thinking) (4.29)
  • Developing an active interest in the future (4.29)
  • Developing the skills needed to manage time effectively (4.02)

 

Students (242)

  • Learning about topics that will have important effects on the future. (4.14)
  • Working together and cooperating with others (4.13)
  • Thinking of many different and unusual ideas (3.99)
  • Helping become a better leader (3.90)
  • Deciding on the best solution to a problem (3.87)

 

COMMUNITY PROJECTS

Adults – Coaches and Affiliate Directors (64)

  • Enhancing the skills of preparing and delivering materials and/or presentations that communicate ideas effectively (4.76)
  • Developing teamwork and collaboration (working together, cooperating with each other)(4.56)
  • Developing leadership skills (4.56)
  • Showing evidence that team members are able to apply FPS skills in other situations (4.30)
  • Developing the skills needed to manage time effectively (4.27)

 

Students (107)

  • Working together and cooperating with others (4.33)
  • Feeling that I can make a difference in shaping the future (4.13)
  • Deciding on the best solution to a problem (4.07)
  • Helping me become a better leader (3.97)
  • Thinking of many different and unusual ideas (3.96)

 

CREATIVE WRITING

Adults – Coaches and Affiliate Directors (82)

  • Enhancing and expanding writing skills (4.39)
  • Developing an active interest in the future (4.11)
  • Learning about complex issues that will shape the future (4.10)
  • Thinking and researching futuristically (4.06)
  • Fostering creative thinking (the ability to generate many, varied, and unusual options (3.98)

 

Students (146)

  • Thinking and researching futuristically (4.08)
  • Developing better writing skills (4.05)
  • Learning about topics that will have important effects on the future (3.99)
  • Thinking of many different and unusual ideas (3.92)
  • Finding information in many different places (3.69)

 

Note, 88% of parents were satisfied with the Future Problem Solving program their youngster(s) participated in and a majority of parents with eligible students anticipated a high level of interest in participating again next year (60.9%).

Alumni Top 5 Most Impactful Skills on Their Development

A group of 48 alumni also responded to surveys focused on their past experiences and the impact those experiences had on their development into adulthood. Approximately 8 in 10 reported Future Problem Solving was very helpful or extremely helpful in secondary school (81%), in academic work after high school (78%), and in other life experiences outside school or academic work (81%). Looking back on their experience, the aspects below were rated the five most important and valuable.

  • Learning ways to think of many different and unusual ideas (4.75)
  • Learning how to choose the best solution for a problem (4.42)
  • Learning how to work or collaborate with others (4.41)
  • Developing better writing skills (4.36)
  • Learning a specific process for solving problems (4.35)
 
Results indicated strong overall satisfaction with Future Problem Solving among all stakeholder groups, as well as evidence of positive impact on academic and real-life accomplishments and personal relationships.

 

5-point Likert scale:
Adults: 1 = Little or no impact, 2 = Limited impact, 3 = Moderate impact, 4 = High impact, 5 = Exceptional impact
Students: 1= Hasn’t helped me at all, 2 = Helped me just a little, 3 = Helped me = “Okay”, 4 = Helped me quite a bit, 5= Really a great help to me
Alumni: 1=Not Important, 2=Of Little Importance, 3=Somewhat Important, 4=Very Important, 5=Extremely Important

April Michele

April Michele Bio

Executive Director

A seasoned educator, April Michele has served as the Executive Director since 2018 and been with Future Problem Solving more than a decade. Her background in advanced curriculum strategies and highly engaging learning techniques translates well in the development of materials, publications, training, and marketing for the organization and its global network. April’s expertise includes pedagogy and strategies for critical and creative thinking and providing quality educational services for students and adults worldwide.

Prior to joining Future Problem Solving, April taught elementary and middle grades, spending most of her classroom career in gifted education. She earned the National Board certification (NBPTS) as a Middle Childhood/Generalist and later served as a National Board assessor for the certification of others. In addition, April facilitated the Theory and Development of Creativity course for the state of Florida’s certification of teachers. She has also collaborated on a variety of special projects through the Department of Education. Beyond her U.S. education credentials, she has been trained for the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme (MYP) in Humanities.

A graduate of the University of Central Florida with a bachelor’s in Elementary Education and the University of South Florida with a master’s in Gifted Education, April’s passion is providing a challenging curriculum for 21st century students so they are equipped with the problem-solving and ethical leadership skills they need to thrive in the future. As a board member in her local Rotary Club, she facilitates problem solving in leadership at the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA). She is also a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) from the Project Management Institute and earned her certificate in Nonprofit Management from the Edyth Bush Institute at Rollins College.