Odyssey of the Mind team seeks world title again
by Norma B. Dennis
To make it to World Finals in Odyssey of the Mind competition is indeed special. To do it repeatedly is amazing. But that is exactly what several Jamestown Middle School Odyssey of the Mind team members are facing - repeat performances at World Finals - as they prepare to attend the World Odyssey of the Mind competition in Ames, Iowa, May 27-30.
The group from JMS is the only one from the Northern Region of North Carolina to advance to the World Finals. It will join about 800 teams from throughout the United States and over 20 countries to seek the title of World Champion of Creative Problem Solving.
Some of the students have worked together on Odyssey teams since elementary school and will be going to finals for the fourth time. The group includes eighth graders Sam Gibson, Lindsey Schaeffer, Tucker Overbey, Brendan Whitaker, and Carmen Atwater, and seventh graders Taylor Fielding and Tommy Frungillo.
Jana Ritter, a teacher at Millis Road Elementary School, and Jenny Gibson, a teacher at Florence Elementary and Sam's mother, have volunteered as coaches for the past five years.
"My first year of teaching I had Carmen and some of the others on the Odyssey team in my class," Ritter said. "I had a special bond with that group. I watched what they did with Odyssey and wanted to maintain contact with the students and be part of Odyssey of the Mind.
"I have enjoyed seeing how successful they have been. They are like a second family."
Odyssey of the Mind is a creative problem solving competition with multiple divisions and types of problems. Everything is student created.
This year, the Jamestown Middle School team selected a performance-based problem entitled "Superstition" and used wedding superstitions as its theme. The problem had to include two documented superstitions and an original superstition created by the team. It also needed a costume worn by two or more team members at the same time, a stage set and a funny narrator.
JMS members used an aversion to opossums as its original superstition and put two people in the front and back of an opossum costume for that requirement. During the problem, the set changed from a bait shop to a wedding chapel.
"Our team usually does a drama-based problem and tends to go a humorous route," Ritter said. "They truly think outside the box. Their creative minds make them successful and they work well as a team. That will make or break you in Odyssey of the Mind."
In keeping with the rules of competition, the JMS team created an eight-minute script and, by utilizing recyclables, made costumes, props and a set - all within a $125 budget.
Teams are required to perform their skit in front of a panel of judges and an audience and then work together to solve a "spontaneous" problem, of which they had no prior knowledge.
Winning first place at state competition April 4 at Wingate University was exciting, but JMS Odyssey of the Mind members are now looking forward to competition at the World Finals. In 2006, the team placed fourth at the world in their division and in 2008 they were the ninth best team in the world in their division. This year they dream of placing even higher, but now face the task of raising a minimum of $2,000 each to fund their trip. The team is planning some fundraising events, but also will need sponsorship from the community.
Checks may be made to OotM Jamestown and turned in to the office at Millis Road Elementary or mailed to Carolyn Whitaker, 4902 Catawba Drive, Greensboro, NC 27407. Include your address and you will receive a receipt. Personal and corporate donations are tax deductible.
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