| Fredericksburg.com |
Students complete Odyssey

Date published: 3/12/2007

The parking lot was packed at Spotsylvania's Riverbend High School on Saturday.

Groups of kids and parents in matching T-shirts milled in and out of the school's doors, toting an unusual array of belongings--boxes of balsa wood pieces and otherworldly creations of poster board and paint.

It was the Rappahannock Regional Odyssey of the Mind tournament, and for the roughly 1,000 students who participated, it marked the culmination of nearly six months of evening meetings and hard work.

Odyssey of the Mind is a creative problem-solving program in which students work in teams and compete within their age groups.

Worldwide, teams of kids from third grade through high school spend most of a school year working on one of five "problems."

In one problem, students must create a structure out of nothing but balsa wood and glue that will balance and support weights.

In another, students write and perform a skit called "Around the World in 8 Minutes," where a character must travel to three different geographical locations, on a trip that has some sort of deeper meaning.

Teams spend a lot of time on their projects, and the sense of relief was evident as team members from Thornburg Middle School sat around a table in Riverbend's cafeteria after their performance, playing a game of Uno.

Tia Kasper, Audrey Drent, Miles Chew, Ashley Hayden, Nichole Barr and Chris Baker took third place in their division for their "Around the World" skit, which traced a globe-trotting musician's quest for a job.

But midday Saturday, with five hours to go before the awards ceremony, all they could think about was catching up on their sleep.

Kasper, Drent and Hayden had been up until 1 a.m. the night before the tournament, which didn't leave much time for rest before they awoke at 6 a.m. to get to Riverbend.

The team's coach, Virginia Kasper, said the competition happened to fall on a particularly busy week for the eighth-graders.

Students had finished a week of Standards of Learning testing, those trying out for Governor's School next year had projects due, and many young athletes are just starting to think about spring sports.

"Everything culminated in the last three weeks, and it's been a little crazy, but they got it all done," she said.

Stephen Gorelick, another Thornburg Middle student who had worked on the balsa wood problem, explained the relief he felt at having the competition behind him.

"Once you do it, your shoulders go down and the steam comes out of your ears, and you sort of calm down," he said.

The winners of each division in Saturday's tournament will move on to compete in the state tournament in Newport News in April.

Walker-Grant Middle, Louisa County Middle, Ni River Middle, Conway Elementary, Riverview Elementary, Smith Station Elementary and Louisa County High schools will all send teams to the state meet.

The Rappahannock Regional tournament included schools from a 19-county region stretching east to the Northern Neck, west to Orange County, north to Stafford County and south to Henrico and New Kent counties.

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