| Grand Traverse Herald |
Creative problem-solvers

By Carol South
Herald contributing writer

Regional Odyssey of the Mind teams advance to state finals

A sneaky reality television show on a tropical island, time travel, a Mackinac Bridge tower made from milk crates, a tale of a selfish three-brained creature -- negative 500 years old -- searching for refreshment.

These altered realities and more can mean one thing: it must be an Odyssey of the Mind tournament.

More than 650 students from 95 teams converged on Traverse City East Junior High School Saturday for the Region 3 tournament that featured a hefty dose of fun problem solving. Delving into problems such as Out of the Box Balsa, ClassicsˇKAround the World in 8 Minutes, I'm Only Thinking of You and The Large and Small of It, students in grades first through 12th tackled each with their own flair.

Costumes, props, dialogue and teamwork were all crucial components as students strove to put their unique spin on the problem.

"I learned to be more creative," said Camy Hanna, a member of the Northern Lakes Community Church's Division II team that tackled the Tag 'Em problem.

Mary Kate Rose, a fourth grade student on the Silver Lake Elementary School team in Division I, helped create a reality show within a reality show with her five teammates. The group has been gathering since November to sharpen their problem solving skills with various games and activities, forging team spirit as they went.

Along the way, Odyssey of the Mind has helped Rose discover a new way of looking at reality.

"I learned that things can be different," she said. "Like if you looked at a tree before it can only be a tree but now it can be this or that."

Tournament director Tina Allen noted that this out-of-the-box thinking is both a goal and result of student participation, resulting in a can-do attitude toward life's challenges.

"The things that are really subtle are that kids learn they can make mistakes and bring themselves back up -- they're not failures, they're mistakes," said Allen, who has been involved with OM for nearly 20 years. "And the fact that you can trust your own decisions, because the adults are hands off when the coaches do it right and that's the best thing that kids can get out of it."

"When people talk about teams moving on, no question it's fun to win but in the long run they really get a sense of who they are and self worth," she added.

Amy Strom, whose daughter, Sarah, was a member of the Eastern Elementary School's Team B, enjoyed watching the ideas spark as the members dreamed up a skit for the Primary -- The Time Capsule problem.

"They're just so creative, so clever," she said of the five girls who conceived of a time machine that took them to prehistoric days to open a time capsule. "It's really been fun, a great process."

Eastern Elementary School fielded two primary division teams in a growing segment of the tournament that featured 13 total entries Saturday, a boost over previous years' numbers.

"That's what builds it, what shows it's not just bigger this year but that the program is growing," said Allen of the increasing younger elementary grade participation.

Four teams earned the coveted Ranatra Fusca award for outstanding creativity, including two from Traverse City: St. Elizabeth Ann Seton and West Senior High Team A. Both teams automatically advance to the state finals.

Region 3 will host the State Finals on April 14 at Traverse City Central High School and Northwestern Michigan College, drawing top Odyssey of the Mind teams from around the state. Other local teams attending the finals include those from Immaculate Conception, Westwoods Elementary, Northern Lakes Community Church, Central Grade School, Interlochen Elementary, Eastern Elementary Team A, Interlochen Pathfinder and West Junior High, which also received the OMer award.

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