| The Redding Pilot |
Odyssey of the Minds: Six students make the world finals


Six fifth grade students from John Read Middle School who competed as a team in the Odyssey of the Mind competition won second place at the state tournament in Durham on March 15, paving the way for them to compete in the world finals.

The team competed against 17 other third through fifth grade teams from across the state. They are going to the finals at the University of Maryland from May 31 through June 4. Team B consisted of Andrea McGowan, Emma Gregory, Suzy Goldberg, Melanie Ambler, Hannah Curtis and Arya Reddy.

Odyssey of the Mind is an international program that fosters creative problem-solving skills for students from kindergarten through college.

The fifth grade teams consists of six competitors and two adult coaches. Team B's coaches are Marilyn McGowan and Lauren Ambler. The team began training in September and met weekly through March.

For the competition, teams choose a problem from a list provided through the program. Team B chose to create and present a humorous performance about eccentric characters who demonstrate odd behavior, peculiar mannerisms, and unconventional dress.

The girls had to include a team-created "problem" within the performance involving an Earth system. The girls chose to create a performance about the biosphere.

The girls' performance centered around the state of the redwood forest. During a scene in a restaurant, characters overhear a conversation about the forest. Characters create a potion to help the trees grow taller.

One of the characters, who is supposed to represent what is bad for the environment, tricks the others into using too much of the potion. The trees grow too tall, and the characters have to create a way to trim them.

Using a "helicopter" they build, the characters trim the tops of the tree.

"The potion was actually Nesquik, baking soda and vinegar," said Hannah. This way, the judges could see the potion foaming, the girls said.

The girls said the experience has taught them a lot about teamwork and creativity.

"While we were working on scripts, the others would build props," said Emma.

"We voted on a lot of things because there were so many good ideas," said Suzy.

The team had to develop props and scripts all on their own. In fact, during the months the team is developing its performance, parents are not allowed to give ideas or help build props. The teams are interviewed by judges during the competition to assess how they developed the ideas and props.

"All of the judges looked so serious, but they were actually really nice," Melanie said of the state competition.

When they go to the world finals, the team will march in an opening ceremony designed to simulate that of the Olympics and will hear the town of Redding called out amidst the thousands of teams marching in from all over the world. John Read Middle School has sent a team to the world finals for the last five years.

The team is developing a fund-raising effort to help defray the costs of the trip and registration fees to participate.


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