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Creative minds at work

By Eiji Yamashita

Creativity and spontaneity was the name of the game for a handful of driven Hanford High School students who took part in the Odyssey of the Mind regional contest Saturday and did well enough to go onto the statewide championship.

They were among the gym-full of students from 13 middle and high schools -- some from as far away as Owens Valley -- who flexed their brains to solve mind-bending challenges in the competition held at the Hanford High campus.

And it usually involves a bizarre scenario -- like the one this year called "Food Court."

The problem demanded high school students, including the Hanford team -- to come up with and perform a humorous skit depicting a court trial where a food item is accused of being unhealthy and has to defend itself among other food peers while the accuser grills the accused before a jury member.

"Creativity is very big," said Mark Lopes, regional director of the event. "Because they'll give you a general idea of the problem, but the kids have to come up with a solution. They can't have any outside assistance ... they really want kids to think on their own."

The Odyssey of the Mind is an international educational program that offers creative problem-solving opportunity for students.

Hoss McNutt, a teacher at Summit Charter School in Porterville and a program coach, said the Odyssey teaches children that life is about the journey, not the end results, because some of the key achievements in life are built upon the process of trial and error.

"It teaches them to overcome problems," said McNutt. "It's OK if you fail. You get back up and start over again ... the world won't end if you don't win Odyssey of the Mind. But if you learn from your mistakes, then it's worth every minute."

The first place award in the high school division went to El Diamante High School from Visalia. Hanford High ranked second in the four schools that competed, also earning the right to advance to the statewide final scheduled for March 27 in Brentwood. The national tournament will take place between May 26-29 at Michigan State University.

The reporter can be reached at 583-2429. To comment on this story, go to www.HanfordSentinel.com.


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