The Grand Rapids Press
Creativity provides edge in Odyssey of the Mind
Sunday, March 18, 2007 By Matt Vande BunteThe Grand Rapids Press
GRANDVILLE -- A white-faced Greg Bales was putting makeup on the cheeks of Brett Ortiz, while Kyle Niewiada sat nearby in a vest of woven newspaper and played a keyboard.
Standing out among his black-suited teammates, Jacob Northuis wore bright girls' clothing and a hat made of newsprint -- the colored funny pages, of course.
A rookie on a Grandville Middle School team of Odyssey of the Mind veterans, the 12-year-old sporting eyeliner explained his role as a comic in the team's skit that featured a wooden duck in a black-and-white movie theme.
"I heard that you get to do weird things and I'm a weird kid," Jacob said about spending the last several months preparing for Saturday's regional Odyssey of the Mind performance. "It's just a riot to think of all these ideas."
Ingenuity filled Grandville High School as about 90 seven-member teams from area schools gathered for an annual international competition inviting students to present imaginative solutions, with both dramatic and technical elements, to a variety of complex and open-ended scenarios.
About 45 teams also competed Saturday at Greenville High School. A regional for schools in eastern Kent County was last week in Forest Hills.
The teams with the highest scores in the competition qualified for the state tournament April 14 in Traverse City. The Odyssey world finals are May 23-26 at Michigan State University.
Each team performs a rehearsed eight-minute sketch in public to solve a specific problem, and also responds spontaneously to an unknown situation behind closed doors with only judges present.
Both sessions call for students to think out of the box with word play, humor and teamwork.
A team from West Side Christian School, for example, portrayed a one-winged angel who did a song and dance to earn a heavenly promotion.
"Where they came up with the whole story line I have no idea," said Connie Meekhof, a parent who shook pom-poms at the end of a performance.
"It's neat to see kids of all different personalities and all different sorts of talents come together and work as a team. It's the ultimate creativity."
The West Side team started brainstorming in October and refined its ideas and props with weekly rehearsal.
"I just like the teamwork, working together to solve a problem," said Grant Groenboom, 11. "I think that was one of our best performances."
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