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Students are on a learning 'Odyssey'

By ROSE KREBS
Burlington County Times
HAINESPORT - General Motors has nothing on a group of seventh-graders at the Hainesport School.

The students in the school's Talented and Gifted Program constructed their own working car, using bicycle pedals and a chain, for the New Jersey Odyssey of the Mind's Lighthouse Regional Tournament at Ewing High School on March 6, a problem-solving competition.

Their entry won first place in their division at the competition, as did the entry of the school's eighth-graders, who put Snapple drinks "on trial" in the Food Court Division II.

It is the first time the school had two teams finish in first place. Both will go to the state competition April 17 at Franklin High School in Somerset.

Diana Venuto, the school's Talented and Gifted teacher, said the competition gives students five problems from which to select. They must use their creativity and ingenuity to prepare a skit relating to that problem.

"The more creative you are, the more you think outside the box, the better," Venuto said.

Members of the eighth-grade team were Mary Anne Amper, Julia Guilardi, Summer Haran, Samantha Harris, Michaela Sasso and Samantha Wilbert. The seventh-grade team members were Sarah Bresnan, Sebastian Dovi, Becky Evans, Karly Evans, Chris Glasgow, Colin Heminway and Linda Mozdzen.

The seventh-graders were given the task of constructing a functioning car no larger than 4 feet by 6 feet in the Nature Trail'R Division II. The car included a shovel on the front that served the dual purpose of moving items out of its path in the skit and steering the vehicle.

"It is pretty cool," Venuto said, noting that the car was made mostly of wood, with gears inside.

The eighth-graders selected the food "trial" option because they wanted to take on Snapple's marketing campaign that the "best stuff on Earth" has "just got better." The students questioned how that could be the case.

Venuto said the "trial" - its judge, jury and attorneys - had to be made up of items from all food groups, requiring some students to be in costume. In the legal proceedings, the judge was a head of cauliflower and attorneys were a carrot and rice cake.

Venuto said in the five years she has been adviser for the competition, the Hainesport School has placed a team in the top three each year to advance to the state level. This year was the best showing yet.

"I am just amazed," she said. "I am so excited for them."

Talented and Gifted students, who meet for three 45-minute classes a week, had worked on their entries for the competition since September, Venuto said.

During the competition, students also must solve a spontaneous problem in only a few minutes and without the aid of their adviser. Advisers are permitted only to help students learn how to use any tools required in solving the problem.

The two township teams will use the same skits in the state competition but will get a different spontaneous problem to solve. An international competition is held after the state-level contests.



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