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IXL school takes third at Odyssey of the Mind

Arkansas City Schools

IXL students who participated in Odyssey of the Mind this year recently received good news. One of the three IXL teams to compete earned a third place ranking at the state competition in Manhattan.

According to its Web site, Odyssey of the Mind is an international educational program that provides creative problem-solving opportunities for students from kindergarten through college.

The Web site also says Odyssey of the Mind is not a knowledge bowl but instead focuses on creativity - an often over-looked part of growth and development through problem solving exercises.

Kathy Marshall, fifth grade teacher at IXL and sponsor for the Odyssey group said the exercises stress out-of-the box thinking.

The team that took third place this year worked on a problem called "Out of the Box - Balsa." The problem challenged the team, made up of third through fifth graders, to build a structure using only the Balsa wood and glue. The structure could not weigh more than 17 grams but it was expected to hold a substantial amount of weight. The IXL group's structure held approximately 34 pounds.

"In order to make these things happen, the students research and do a lot of trial and error work," Marshall said. "They're scientifically experimenting."

Marshall said schools participate by purchasing a membership. In this case the IXL PTO made that purchase for the students. The membership entitles the school to get six different exercises to work on through the year. Every year the problems change so the students continue learn new things.

She said at competition, teams are judged in three different categories. The first, long term, is what the team works on for months ahead of time, such as the Balsa project. The teams are also judged on style and spontaneity. During the spontaneous session, the team goes into a room with a judge and creates answers to a particular challenge right on the spot.

"To think that fast takes a lot of practice and a serious commitment from the students and their families," Marshall said, "They are so dedicated."

The students participated in approximately two planning sessions a week since October. As the competition grew closer, the number of practices increased.

According to the Odyssey of the Mind Web site, the competitive element to these competitions encourage the students, in a friendly way, to be the best they can be. The site also explains that the students learn cooperation and respect for other' ideas and they work with a budget so they learn to manage money.

IXL has participated in Odyssey of the Mind for three years now and Marshall said the school plans to compete next year.

"It is so good for all students to work together as a team," she said. "They think of ideas then work together as a team to see those unfold; it's a great opportunity."

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