Many schools have debate teams that choose an either/or side regarding a current event and then gather evidence and argue against other teams to support their chosen side. But what if instead of just discussing important issues, students were challenged to develop realistic, meaningful solutions to our pressing global problems?
Students did just that at the recent inaugural Solutionaries Congress, which was piloted with 34 high school students on nine teams from four schools in Utah.
The event was sponsored by the Institute for Humane Education (with funding from The Pollination Project) and organized and directed by Dr. David Sidwell, adjunct professor at Utah State University and a visible nonprofit leader in the state.
As Dr. Sidwell said in his report about the Solutionaries Congress, “When we first began planning this event, we thought students would see a problem in their community like stray dogs or people on the streets, or we thought they might look at a village in Africa and figure out how to clean their water or something. But they thought much bigger! It was kind of fun to see them do so much research and come up with such compelling arguments.”
The report also noted the positive reactions from participating students, such as from Madison Alleman, a debate student from Carbon High School: “I think it was a great experience to look at the world and all its problems and look at how we as a team could come up with a solution. Usually in debate, we just talk about problems, but in this case, we had to actually come up with a solution.”
According to Dr. Sidwell, “The winners of the event were from Lone Peak High School with their presentation of how a variety of medical ills can be solved by using research that has come to light with the human genome project. In second place, a team from Carbon High School in Price presented solutions to space allocations due to overpopulation. Another team from Lone Peak High School captured third place with their presentation on using hydrogen fuel to help solve the energy crisis. Other topics from the student teams addressed solutions to the energy crisis by way of space-based solar power, faulty ACT exam paradigms, economic inequality, health insurance, the education crisis, and inhumane treatment of certain peoples in India.”
Long term plans are to develop the Solutionaries Congress into a national competition.
We at IHE want to extend our gratitude and congratulations to Dr. Sidwell and his team (and to all the participating students, teachers, and schools), and our thanks to The Pollination Project for their support!
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