| Wiscasset Newspaper |
School takes second in state competition

Barbara Martin

Since last fall, Wiscasset Middle School students have been preparing for their journey to Colby College to compete in the Maine Odyssey of the Mind Competition. Their own personal odyssey reached a milestone on Saturday when their hard work and creativity was rewarded with a second place finish.

The tournament is part of a yearly worldwide competition that focuses on creative problem solving. Students work in their schools with a teacher/coach to hone their skills at solving long-term and spontaneous problems.

Seventh grade science teacher, Chris Chambers-Miller coached the team of students who prepared throughout the year to represent the school at the competition. In a press release, she wrote, "The WMS team of Yvette Alexandrou, Brian Campbell, Zach Carrier, Logan Haley, and Brent Holbrook made quite an impression on the judges receiving many compliments for their elaborate artistic backgrounds, imaginative props, original humor and teamwork on stage."

The purpose of the program is to encourage students to be "creatively successful." Program literature defines that phrase as "the ability to think originally, then to take that creativity one step further and apply it productively.'

Miller described the different types of problems that were used to challenge the students this year with the focus being to come up with something unexpected, not standard fare.

There were hands-on problems that required students to design or build something to accomplish a task. Some problems were non-verbal. According to Miller, students had to create their own communication system to reach their goal.

Other problems were theatrical and required that students use their verbal and acting skills to present complicated plots and themes.

At the competition, students compete in both short and long-term problem solving. Miller said they cannot receive help from their coach. The short-term problems require teams to create solutions on the spot. Teams work on one long-term problem and display their work on game day.

The students chose a theatrical problem to prepare this year. The problem was to create an original and humorous skit that includes a self-serving person who is able to manipulate others two times, but includes a third attempt that fails and exposes their inner self. The skit also has to include a surprise.

The competition names this type of problem, "I'm only thinking of you." Miller described the team's play. They invented a character named Lucy, played by Yvette Alexandrou, who convinces her parents to take a trip "because they need to get away," when she is actually trying to avoid her MEA tests at school.

She then concocts a Huck Finn like trick by scheming to get her friends to mow lawns for her while she earns money from their labors. Miller said the team designed and built a mower for this scene.

Her last attempt at convincing people to do something for themselves, which actually benefits her, fails. She tries to convince her parents to go to a party that she wants to attend, but pretends that it would be good for them. However on arriving, she finds out that they have tricked her into being part of a reality television show surprisingly called, "I'm Only Thinking of You," learning that people figured her out long ago.

Miller said the group truly enjoyed the event.

"I really liked watching other people solve their problems," said Brian Campbell.

"I am like so excited," Brent Holbrook said. Many were proudly wearing their award ribbons on Tuesday at school.

Their second place finish in the state tournament makes them eligible to compete in the Odyssey of the Mind 2007 World Finals at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Mich. in May. Anyone wishing to learn more about the local program may contact Chris Miller at cmiller@wWiscassetk12.me.us or explore the following Web sites: http://www.odysseyofthemind.com/ or http://me.odysseyofthemind.org/.

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