You can’t keep some kids away from Staples High School.
Even on Sunday.
Last week — at the teen-ungodly hour of 8 a.m. (really 7; it was the day the clocks changed) — 52 students gathered for the 4th annual Staples Spectacular Student Challenge.
The Stapleites — including, for the 1st time, 5 freshmen — had 12 hours to read, analyze, research, synthesize, and finally solve, a real-world problem.
Welcome to education, 2013-style.
And this being 2013, the problem involved natural disasters.
The students were asked to use Seaside Heights, New Jersey — an area ravaged by Hurricane Sandy — as a case study. Their challenge was to recommend ways that coastal towns and regions can prepare for — and recover from — future hurricanes.
Working in teams of 4 and 5, they had to first:
- Quantify the financial impact of storm damage to individuals, businesses and infrastructure
- Find out how the damage was addressed, and
- Determine how recovery programs were funded, and assess their effectiveness.
That was only Part 1.
Next came the task of developing a plan to abate the effects of future hurricanes on Seaside Heights, and provide aid. Students had to:
- Consider the role of prevention and response on regional, municipal and personal levels
- Figure out the social, legal and financial implications of their plans
- Include a cost/benefit analysis of their recommendations, including implications for the community, state, region and nation
- Consider how to sell the plan to the community
- Advise how the plan could be implemented by other shoreline communities.
All by 8 p.m. that night.
Though President Obama, Congress, Governor Christie, FEMA, and bajillions of other people have worked steadily on this issue since October, the Staples students were undaunted.
Using the internet; skills gained in math, science, history, social studies and many other classes; collaboration, and their own very significant brains, they produced an enormous range of responses.
Those will be examined closely, by a panel of judges. The top teams will make formal presentations next month — adding “communication skills” to the long list of criteria students are expected to master in 2013.
The 52 teenagers who competed in this year’s Spectacular Student Challenge were there for a variety of reasons. They love competition, academic rigor, open-ended questions, and the flexibility and creativity of solving a real-world challenge.
The scholarship prize money — $35,000 was awarded in the 1st 3 years — is important too, of course.
But they’d probably be there even without that lure. In fact, one student thought next year’s challenge could be even tougher.
He wants to add “a twist” to the problem at some point during the day.