GATE students go on winning Odyssey
By Susan Wachtel Special to The Acorn
Forty Gifted and Talented (GATE) students from the fourthand fifth grades at White Oak Elementary School in Westlake Village traveled to Pasadena on March 7 to participate in the Odyssey of the Mind educational tournament.
Odyssey is a program that provides students creative problemsolving situations that range from building mechanical devices to presenting their own interpretation of literary classics. Students are guided by parent/ adult coaches, but their approaches, solutions and presentation styles all come from a collaborative, teamwork format.
The problems the students choose to solve can be artistic, technical, or performance oriented. The coaches were not allowed to give advice or help build the projects. They act as facilitators, asking the children key questions to help guide them toward their solutions.
According to Payton Fey, a fourthgrade participant, "Coaching was hard for the parents. They wanted to help."
Taylor Clarke, another fourthgrader, said, "We came up with the ideas. I was proud of myself. I felt like I did it by myself. We all did it without parents."
White Oak did an outstanding job, especially considering this was their first time in the program. There were 25 other schools that worked on the same problems.
Four of the seven White Oak teams placed and are eligible for the California state finals, including two firstplace teams, one secondplace team, and one thirdplace team. These teams advance to represent White Oak in the statewide tournament in Brentwood on April 4.
"The other three teams did very well, too, with high scores all around. There was some very tough competition in many categories, with some schools that have been competing in Odyssey for years. As the novices, we were all pleasantly surprised to have so many teams that placed," said Mrs. Maxwell, White Oak fourth-grade teacher.
Each of the teams that placed received individual medals and a team trophy.
Each school contributed to a judging pool. The teams received scores based on the solution they provided to a problem that was presented.
"All of the White Oak teams stepped up and successfully met the challenges. We are very proud of our kids," said Cathy Anderson, a parent and coach for one of the teams.
According to White Oak GATE coordinator Lorna Maxwell, "Almost every child had at least one parent who made the drive out to Pasadena for this. Everyone was telling me how much fun they had, and what a great experience this was for the kids."
Taylor and Payton said they had a great experience, despite the long hours of study until 4 p.m. on Fridays and often another few hours during the week. Both girls said the experience, though challenging, was worth the effort. "Even if we didn't win, we're still so happy. I know I did it on my own. I got to meet so many new people here at White Oak and in Pasadena," said Payton.
"It was the teamwork that made it possible. We learned to work together, over time, like brothers and sisters. If you work as a team, that's when you can work more," said Taylor.
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