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Students take on Game of Minds 


19 MF-TOMskids copy-534BY JULIA WADE

A challenging game of the cerebral kind, which kindles the spirit of learning and rewards outside-the-square thinking, has seen a competitive team of local school students recently compete on a national level.

Tournament of Minds (TOM) is an international problem solving programme for primary and secondary year students which celebrates the talents and capabilities of young minds. Running for over ten years and involving over 100 schools and thousands of schoolchildren, TOM’s purpose is to expand children’s creative skills by encouraging exploration and experimentation with different theoretical ideas to discover viable solutions to demanding, open-ended challenges. Students then have to communicate their findings in an original and inventive format to a panel of selected judges. 

Five teams of Year 5 to 8 Mangawhai Beach School students entered the competition this year, with one Year 7/8 team winning their division in the regional competition and competing at the national competition in Wellington on September 15. Although they did not get a placing in the national final, the students performed very well MBS teacher and coordinator of TOM for the school, Cate Campbell says.

“Our most successful intermediate team worked super hard, many hours were spent after school and on weekends preparing their solution,” she says. “The aspect of the competition that the kids found most rewarding and challenging was that they had to work on their solution without any help from teachers or parents. Team work and time management skills were tested!”

TOMs has a range of objectives and benefits including encouraging cooperative learning and teamwork as students are required over the six weeks to work only within their group. The contest also inspires a ‘spirit of inquiry and a love of learning’, encourages experimentation and risk taking, rewards creative and divergent thinking and develops creative problem solving approaches and techniques, as well as ‘promotes knowledge and appreciation of self and others’ while celebrating excellence. 

Challenges are based on one of four disciplines: Language Literature involves an in-depth analysis and research of texts; Social Sciences looks at the moral and ethical issues of 21st century society; The Arts, artistic expression of theatre, dance, song and musical instruments; and STEM a combination of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics principles. 

On Tournament Day students must present their challenge solution to a panel of judges and an audience, in a ten minute timeframe. Teams must also participate in a ‘spontaneous challenge’ which requires a quick trading of creative ideas and demonstrates group cooperation skills. First and second winning teams get to compete in an international competition involving countries from Australia, South Africa, Hong Kong, Thailand, Uganda and United Arab Emirates. 

Enthusiasm for the challenging event saw a large percentage of MBS students taking part in the selection process which was open to anyone who was interested. Children worked together on a problem allowing teachers to observe how they worked in a team and how they demonstrated advanced creative and critical thinking Campbell says. 

“Teachers 'shoulder tapped' kids who they thought would benefit from this opportunity,” she says. “In Year 7 and 8 there were over 30 kids who wanted to take part, so we ended up selecting 21 kids, three teams of seven. Quite a large percentage of the 80 or so kids we have in the intermediate syndicate!” 

Selected students then took part in workshops designed to extend their thinking skills and group work skills in preparation for the competition.
“As a teacher I love that TOMs gives some of our most academically capable kids a chance to struggle and build resilience and that the kids sink or swim completely on their efforts,” she says. “I also love that it gives kids, who are very creative or deep thinkers who may not always be 'high achievers' in school, a chance to shine.”

Creative problem solvers and outside-the-box thinkers; the Mangawhai Beach School Year 7/8 team who recently competed nationally in a game involving risk taking, diverse ideas and teamwork, pictured with teacher Cate Campbell.

“Our most successful intermediate team worked super hard, many hours were spent after school and on weekends preparing their solution.”

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