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Odyssey of the Mind sparks creative chaos

By Stephen Sacco
Minisink Valley High School students work on their Odyssey of the Mind project Saturday in Goshen before their presentation.Times Herald-Record/DOMINICK FIORILLE

GOSHEN — It's not often that you can step into a school and see seven little Greek goddesses in flowing white robes gracing the hallways — or students dressed as vegetables.

But on Saturday at Orange-Ulster BOCES, these sights fazed nobody during the Mid-Hudson Regional Odyssey of the Mind competition, which was set against the backdrop of what organizers describe as "controlled chaos."

The annual competition challenges students from elementary through high school to form teams to solve problems creatively in five different subject areas and then present their solutions — with a theatrical flair — at the competition. This year, the competition brought 750 students in 107 teams from Orange, Ulster, Sullivan and Dutchess counties to Goshen.

Maryanne Monte, Odyssey of the Mind regional coordinator, estimates that with teachers, coaches and family members, nearly 4,000 people descended on Goshen Saturday.

"My son gets as excited about this as he does about football," said Dave Hoovler, whose son, Keith, was competing for the Port Jervis School District at Odyssey.

This is exactly the idea, says Monte. Odyssey aims to bring the same feel-the-electricity excitement associated with school athletics to intellectual competition.

Students from Goshen Elementary, who were dressed as Greek goddesses, said building stuff was the most fun. But there were struggles.

"Sometimes we argued about things," said fifth-grader Lynda DeFusto. "But then we would sit down and talk about it until we worked everything out."

Odyssey was started in 1978 by a New Jersey college professor, Monte said. Now, there are competitions in every state and all over the world. Last year, says Monte, students from Goshen and Chester won prizes at the worldwide competition, and some of the teams competing Saturday will go onto the state competition in Binghamton.

Many moving trucks were parked outside BOCES Saturday, serving as temporary homes for Odyssey projects that had yet to be unveiled.

One such project was a vehicle built by Port Jervis Middle School students, inspired by Dr. Seuss' "moss-covered three-handled family credenza."

"I think (Odyssey) makes you creative," said Rashaad Escamilla, a Port Jervis eighth-grader in a Dr. Seuss hat who helped to build the vehicle. "And it's interesting to see everybody's different styles of creativity."

ssacco@th-record.com



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