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November 7, 1997

Gifted students learn how to solve problems

Eighteen students in the gifted and talented program in grades
7-12 recently attended a Creative Problem Solving conference at
the Sul Ross University campus in Alpine.

They were accompanied by five teachers, who also received training
on participating in the CPS process. Those who attended were high
school students Penny Armstrong, Tye Graham and Efrain Rodriguez;
eighth graders Ashlee Canon, John Canon, Brenda Fuentes, Candace
Hilliard, Patrick McChesney, Emily Natividad, Jessica Orona,
Kelsey Riley, Shanna Tredaway, and Rebecca Wein, and seventh
graders Amanda Armstrong, Trey Edwards, Amanda Fleming, Julissa
Leal and Phillip Salcido. Sponsors for the group were Cindy Duke,
Olivia Herrera, Steele Ewing, Gail Box and James Shank. Nancy
Russell, District G/T Coordinator, was a facilitator at the

CPS, a complex form of creative thinking, is a six-step process
which involves first sorting through a problem situation, called a
"mess," and moving toward a broad goal or solution. Participants
then sort through all available information about the "mess,"
formulate a problem statement, develop many ideas and select
thorse that will most likely result in solutions, and devise a
plan to implement the solutions.

The Creative Problem Solving model is used in such popular
programs for the gifted as Future Problem Solving and Odyssey of
the Mind. It is also highly adaptable to the classroom as well as
the business world. Students who learn and understand the process
can apply it to real problem situations. In the classroom, for
instance, they can use the process to move from brainstorming
techiques toward problems and inquiry in the academic subject

Students from several schools in this region who attended the CPS
conference were presented with a futuristic "mess" written by Jim
Collett, curriculum director at McCamey ISD. In this "mess,"
scientists at Longetech Laboratory have discovered a technique for
turning on the genetic switch that slows the aging process,
enabling humans to live three times the normal lifespan. Once
scientist, much to the surprise and dismay of everyone at the
laboratory, has already tried the experiment on a human embryo,
and news of this experiment has somehow been leaked to the
President of the United States.

The President then calls together a committee and charges them
with the responsibility of seeking a solution to this problem. The
students who attended the conference were members of this "mock"
committee. After being divided into groups of nine to eleven
students, they worked on this problem for the rest of the day.
Each group had to produce a banner, a brochure, and a skit which
incorporated the "mess," the problem, their solution, and their

The products were presented that evening to the whole group and
were judged by a panel of Sul Ross professors. Awards were
presented to groups for oustanding products and performances.

Although it was a long, tiring day, the students and teachers who
attended came away with many worthwhile ideas and skills. Many
students who attended said they would like to return next year,
and several who were unable to attend because of conflicting
activities said they want to attend next year. Teachers who
attended said they plan to utilize the CPS skills in their
classrooms as a means of tying together the four core academic
areas and making them more relevant to their students.

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