Problem Solving 101

One thing is certain in our future: we will always face problems. While not always easy, we do have options when we face a problem: give in or find a solution. At Almond Acres, we obviously believe that finding a solution is the best way to approach a problem. We know that successfully overcoming struggles and obstacles is what sets highly effective people apart from the crowd.

Three students in red and blue Almond Acres polo uniform shirts work together to solve a STEM challenge involving marshmallows, popsicle sticks and plastic spoons. They are sitting at a group of desks.

At Almond Acres, we teach students how to flexibly approach problems from an early age, whether it be a tiff between friends on the playground or a challenge of litter on our campus. Problem solving requires critical thinking, planning, reflection and taking action, all essential 21st century skills that, when cultivated from an early age, can have far-reaching positive effects in all aspects of our lives. 

Mr. Bourgault, our Founding Executive Director (Retired), created a simple 5 step model for solving problems with both peace and patience that we use with students from Kindergarten to 8th grade. The model asks us to scale out our perspective by looking at the big picture and is highly integrative with our study of the Habits of Mind. It encourages us to think win-win, seek first to understand and synergize

Here’s Mr. B’s 5 Step System that we affectionately call PGOSE It! 

Step 1. Problem

What is the problem? Describe clearly and specifically what the problem is. 

Step 2. Goal

What do you wish would be or happen? Begin with the End in Mind!

Step 3. Obstacles

What is getting in the way of achieving the goal? Be specific about the feelings, actions, and ideas that are interfering with reaching the goal. Make a list!

Step 4. Strategies

What might you do to get around the obstacles that would result in achieving your goal? Identify 2-3 specific things you can do to eliminate or maneuver around the obstacles. 

Step 5. Evaluate

When should we check back in to see if our strategies worked? Do this soon after the strategies are practiced. 

When we take the time to go through these steps, we are using our minds and hearts in a nimble and creative way–just as they were intended to be used! It takes a bit of stretching, and a bit of practice, but the model truly makes seeking a win-win solution possible.

Three Almond Acres charter students sit on the floor together and work on a STEM challenge involving marshmallows and popsicle sticks. They are wearing Almond Acres uniforms.

Practicing this model also gives us a chance to reframe struggle into a positive opportunity for growth. It’s another chance for our students to model just how TeRRiFiC (Trustworthy, Respectful, Responsible, Fair and Caring) they are! 

We can’t anticipate the struggles and obstacles of the future, nor can we pave a smooth path to success for our kids, but we can teach the skills that will prepare children to address the problems of tomorrow head on. It’s just another way we Grow Great Kids.

About AACA

Almond Acres Charter Academy is a public, tuition-free K-8 school that employs credentialed teachers and administers state-mandated testing to provide families in northern SLO County an additional choice in public education. Located in Paso Robles in a newly built, state-of-the-art facility, AACA is open to all students from all communities. AACA’s mission is to help students succeed academically and socially by educating the whole child: heart, mind, body and soul. We grow great kids!

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