The future is now: At Indian Trails Middle School, Future Problem Solvers thrive

ITMS sent 77 students to the FPS state competition and brought back a load of awards; four teams and individuals are headed to the international competition

Indian Trails Community Problem Solvers' Project BOSS (Bring On Student Start Ups) participants: Paris Milton, Jorge Guerrero, Wesley Kopach, Kendall Willis, Dempsey Manhart and Liam O'Connor. Not pictured: Arlo Bottonelli. Photo by Brent Woronoff
Indian Trails Community Problem Solvers' Project BOSS (Bring On Student Start Ups) participants: Paris Milton, Jorge Guerrero, Wesley Kopach, Kendall Willis, Dempsey Manhart and Liam O'Connor. Not pictured: Arlo Bottonelli. Photo by Brent Woronoff
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About 40 Flagler County students will be competing at the Future Problem Solving International Conference on June 5-9 at Indiana University in Bloomington. This is the first in a series featuring the students and their projects: 

It’s no secret why Indian Trails Middle School has almost 100 students who are participating in the Future Problem Solving program. The school offers FPS as an elective.

Beth Blumengarten. File photo courtesy of Flagler Schools

English teacher Beth Blumengarten teaches three FPS classes for seventh and eighth graders and also coaches an after-school FPS club that includes sixth graders. Neil Kopach and Hannah Anderson are coaching this year with Blumengarten.

ITMS sent 77 students to the state competition in Orlando last month. It had the largest contingent of students by a single school at the competition. Two teams and two individuals are representing ITMS at the international competition.

“This is my largest year yet,” Blumengarten said of the participation.

Blumengarten is in her sixth year as a teacher. But her relationship with Future Problem Solvers goes back more than 10 years when her oldest son, who is now in college, first got involved in the program as a fifth grader at Rymfire Elementary School.

“I go into this hoping to spark something in my students that could potentially change the trajectory of their whole life,” she said. “The things that I have seen Future Problem Solvers do for older students, who are now college age and career driven, is incredible. You can see how it changes their mindset where they can think outside of the box. It's remarkable to see these kids succeed and see what they can learn from it.”

Community Problem Solving, known as CmPs, drives students to find ways to solve problems in their own schools and communities. Global Issues Problem Solving (GIPS) teaches them to tackle issues on a larger scale.

In all the categories, the students “think in a processed way in order to make decisions,” Blumengarten said.

One of the CmPS projects was about expanding FPS to the three Flagler County elementary schools that don’t have clubs.

“And they were successful getting it started over at Wadsworth,” Blumengarten said.

The ITMS group goes over to Wadsworth every Wednesday for two hours to teach the elementary school kids the FPS process. And for next year, Wadsworth has a teacher ready to be their coach, Blumengarten said.

In addition to Blumengarten’s three FPS classes, she teaches three reading and writing classes. But with the amount of writing the students do, FPS could be considered an advanced writing class, she said.

“What most people don't understand about Future Problem Solvers, is that it teaches them to read and write at another level, which translates to their English scores and writing scores,” she said. “They're always writing at a level above the regular class.”

ITMS had 12 CmPS projects that competed at state, 19 scenario writers, 12 GIPS teams and three individuals.

“We came home with quite a few trophies,” she said.

They all went into the school’s trophy case dedicated exclusively to FPS awards.

Here is a look at the two ITMS teams and two individuals who were invited to compete at the International Conference.  


Seven ITMS students have teamed up on Project BOSS, which stands for Bring On Student Start Ups.

The team took first place in Community Problem Solvers Education at state and they will now compete at the IC.

The team includes Kendall Willis, Wesley Kopach, Liam O’Connor, Arlo Bottonelli, Jorge Guerrero, Dempsey Manhart and Paris Milton.

“Our project is about teaching younger students an entrepreneurial mindset because a lot of young students these days have business ideas, but they don't really know how to act on them and create a successful business,” Kendall explained.

“I go into this hoping to spark something in my students that could potentially change the trajectory of their whole life.”

The BOSS team is hosting a youth business fair, Kid Biz Market and Expo, on Saturday, April 20, 9 a.m. to noon, at the school’s cafeteria and track.

“Kids from all over the community can come to our school and promote their business or their business idea,” Kendall said. “And that way they can market their idea and get potential customers.”

Any child age 4 to 18 is welcome to set up a booth at the event to sell their product or service. Kids will have the opportunity to present “In the Tank” to pitch their idea for a possible sponsorship. There will also be a bike helmet give away, and another CmPS project, Through Their Eyes, will host a walk for dementia and Alzhiemer’s awareness.

When the BOSS group was deciding early in the school year what to focus their project on, they all decided that they want to be entrepreneurs, Liam said.

“So we started sending out surveys and flyers,” he said.

“Kids from all over the community can come to our school and promote their business or their business idea,”
KENDALL WILLIS, on the Kid Biz Market and Expo at ITMS 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday, April 20

Through surveys in their school and other schools, Dempsey said, 84 students indicated they were interested in starting a business but didn’t have guidance.

“Then we started creating lessons,” Liam said. “We had a club after school and a class during our home room.”

They received a grant through the Flagler Education Foundation to buy books and a subscription to Kidpreneurs Academy.

“This allowed us to not only do research but buy these books for our club kids and our students that we are teaching,” Dempsey said.

The team members are now trying to make sure that after they move on to high school, the entrepreneurial club will continue.

“We’re trying to start an elective after school,” Dempsey said. “Because Matanzas has a class and they let us know how they run it, so we can start one up next year.”


Eighth-grader Tyson Landon wanted to see sidewalks added in his neighborhood for the safety of students who walk to school, ride their bikes or walk to a bus stop. That was going to be the basis of his CmPS project.

But halfway through, he realized that the costs would be prohibitive, so he shifted to trying to improve safety measures.

Tyson Landon stands next to his Arrive Alive display board. Photo by Brent Woronoff

He placed first at state in the CmPS Middle Division with his Arrive Alive project, and now he’s heading to international competition in his first year in FPS.

“I'm definitely excited,” he said.

In researching his project, he met with Flagler Schools Superintendent LaShakia Moore, school district Transportation Director Orenthia Walker and County Commission Chair Andy Dance. He did a Zoom call with the City Council introducing his project. He told them about a 2017 River to Sea Transportation Planning Organization study on pedestrian safety calling for more beacon lights and signs in the areas around Belle Terre Parkway — work that was never done.

When he got back from spring break, he discovered the city installed new beacon lights and signs.

“I told him when he got back from spring break, ‘They made improvements because of you,’” Blumengarten said.

Tyson created a safety guidelines flyer that he posted on a school bulletin board. Principal Ryan Andrews put it on the cafeteria TVs so it’s playing every single day, Tyson said.

He is passionate about his project. On different days, he is a bike rider, a pedestrian and a bus rider. Each form of transportation poses its own dangers, he said. There are cracks in the sidewalk on Bird of Paradise Drive, one that popped his bicycle tire three times. Walkers are forced to walk on the grass where the sidewalks end. Bus riders have to walk in the dark to get to their bus stops on time.

His objective is to provide knowledge so students can feel safe.

“So that when you are going to and from school you know, ‘OK, if this happens I need to do this. If I'm riding on the road, I need to watch for this,’” he said.

The project, he said, is personal because he has two younger brothers, one who will be riding his bike by himself to ITMS next year when Tyson will be moving on to high school. His youngest brother will be starting middle school the following year.

“I really want to take the project further,” he said, “where they actually fix a lot of the stuff so that it's really safe for students.”


Annabella Glasco, Brendan Scarbough Sanders and Emily Rhee placed first in Global Issues Junior Division to receive their international invite.

From left, Mary Grace Seward, who will be competing in Multi-Affiliate Global Issues Competition (MAGIC), and Brenden Scarbough Sanders, Anabella Glasco and Emily Rhee, who will compete as a team in Global Issues. Photo by Brent Woronoff

Mary Grace Seward is heading to the International Conference in the Middle Division MAGIC category — Multi-Affiliate Global Issues Competition. She will be assigned to a group with students from different states or countries to solve a problem relating to a future scene which they will learn when they arrive. The general topic is air quality.

“I’m going to be writing with people from around the competition,” Mary Grace said. “I’m pretty excited because everyone's going to be from different countries, and so everyone has a different way of writing.”

Annabella, Brendan and Emily are used to working together, identifying different challenges and writing solutions.

Annabella competed at IC last year at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

“My experience was super special,” she said. “I kind of experienced all different kinds of cultures, because whenever we would do the walkthrough to see everybody's presentations, we saw people from Australia, New Zealand, everywhere.”

“They have fun,” Blumengarten said. “At state, they spend four days (in Orlando) and stay in hotels with their friends. They enjoy every bit of it, but they work really hard to get there and really hard while they’re there.”


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