Students act up to solve problems
By Thomas Iversen
OVIEDO - "Eating too many eggs will turn you into a chicken," Swinerick says. "This fabulous transformation will include growing feathers and being scared of your own shadow."
"Something smells fishy, Fred," says Chief Justice of the Supreme Sardines. "Did you have a bath this morning?"
These lines, spoken in a play written by a team of fifth graders at St. Luke's Lutheran School in Oviedo, are part of Odyssey of the Mind, an international program that challenges the problem solving skills of students from kindergarten through college.
Teams use their creativity to solve problems - with a theatrical flair.
This is the first year St. Luke's is competing in Odyssey of the Mind. Last month, the team went to regionals and won. The victory came as a surprise to some students.
"I thought we'd come in dead last to be honest," said 11-year-old Patrick Moorhead. "I was amazed we won."
That amazing win means the team now heads to the state tournament next month at UCF for a chance to move on to the World Finals.
Teacher Lisa Riegle felt forming an "Odyssey of the Mind" team would be a great opportunity for her students. She took the idea to the principal and, to her delight, was given quick approval.
"The program falls right into what St. Luke's is all about," Reigle said. "We offer many sports and music programs other schools don't have, so I thought this would be a perfect fit."
In Odyssey of the Mind, teams select a problem, then solve it by creating a humorous presentation.
The St. Luke's team chose "Food Court" as its problem. The team's mission was to write and perform a play in which one food item accuses another of being unhealthy. That food item must then defend itself.
From that scenario, "Pandemonium in Peagaria" was born. The play stars such imaginative characters as Princess Eggestasia, King Ping, Queen Pong, Gouda Lama, and Swinerick.
Performing in front of an audience didn't come easy to some students.
"I'm a quiet person, but I had to get up and sing," said 11-year-old Kamila Rosasco. "I had to learn to be louder and bolder. It has helped me a lot."
While Odyssey of Mind helps Kamila conquer her shyness, it helps other students in different ways.
"We all learn a lot about teamwork," said 11-year-old Caralyn Tenney. "It's great to be able to all get along with each other while under extreme pressure."
"It's fun to do," said Matthew Mason, 11. "I learn that we can work together as a team and get things done."
And while the kids do have fun, Riegle says it's not easy.
"They say it's fun, but it's also a lot of hard work," she said. "Adults are not allowed to help out at all. The kids have to do this completely by themselves."
"It's pretty fun to have to do stuff on your own without getting help from anyone," Patrick said. "It makes it more of a challenge, and I've always been the type to take on challenges."
Students do everything from writing the script to creating costumes, props and backgrounds. They are allowed to use some class time to work on their project, but they also have to give up a lot of their free time.
"They have a demanding school schedule, so they have to spend tons of hours after school putting this together," Riegle said. "It's a big commitment."
But, like most big commitments, it comes with big rewards. There are short-term rewards, like having fun and winning competitions.
But there are also long-term rewards that will stay with the kids for the rest of their lives.
"The program offers a unique opportunity for young people to experience some real life problems," Riegle said. "They learn to use their creativity to problem solve on their own. These are tools that will help them not only in school, but in adulthood as well."
Odyssey of the Minds shows that a little creativity can go a long way, and the kids at St. Luke's hope it takes them all the way to Michigan for the World Finals.
"I think we'll do pretty well, but I was just happy to win regionals," said 10-year-old Samantha Maybury. "Even if we don't go on to world competition, we'll be happy with our accomplishments."
The state tournament is April 10 at UCF. The World Finals are May 26-29 at Michigan State University.
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