| Harlem Valley Times.com |
Dover students compete in 'Odyssey of the Mind'

By: Jennifer Barry, Staff Reporter03/13/2008
DOVER - This year, for the first time, the Dover Free Union School District sent students to the Odyssey of the Mind competition.

Two teams of fourth- and fifth-graders from Dover Elementary school competed in two different events in the Feb. 24 regionals at Orange-Ulster BOCES in Goshen.

Odyssey of the Mind is a competitive educational program that provides creative problem-solving opportunities for students from kindergarten through college.

Students are given a range of different problems to choose from, each one requiring a different set of skills and approaches.

Some problems require students to utilize their engineering know-how to create mechanical devices, while others require students to have a penchant for story-telling and a literary background.

Dover teachers and coaches Colleen Avery and Annie Davis chose two different problems for their students to grapple with back in late November.

Students were then split into two different teams, each handling a different problem.

The first group was assigned to the "Odyssey Road Rally," where they designed and built an original vehicle that had to have the capability to participate in four different sports-related events.

"We chose to do soccer and shuffleboard for two of our events," said Ashley Seiferheld, the only girl on the Road Rally team.

Seiferheld also explained how her team had tried to incorporate a slingshot into their vehicle, which would fire a wiffleball.

According to her other team members, the slingshot idea didn't work as well as they had hoped when put to the test.

Despite the setback, the team was very proud of their vehicle, even having designed their own T-shirts that they took to the competition.

The other problem chosen by Avery and David was "DinoStories," which challenged students to write and perform a humorous one-act play depicting what might have happened to the dinosaurs.

Students were to come up with an original theory about the extinction, and part of the performance had to take place in the Triassic, Jurassic or Cretaceous period.

"The first thing we did was look on the computer and in books for what the dinosaurs looked like," said Gabrielle Hernandez.

"We had to choose two different dinosaurs and also include one animal that lived with the dinosaurs that is still around today," said Lauren Stra.

"We chose the Stegasaurus, the Cetiosaurus and the crocodile," said Abbie Alhashima.

The students even created their own set and costumes, complete with jewelry and a stegosaurus tail of cardboard and egg cartons.

"This experience was challenging, exciting, and frustrating at times, as well," said Avery. "The kids had to do everything on their own. We couldn't lead them. All we could do was question them sometimes and hope that they arrived at good conclusions on their own."

Despite the challenge, Avery said she would do it all again next year.

"This was an amazing experience," said Avery. "There's no turning back now."

Superintendent Craig Onofry said that he fully supports Avery and Davis in their endeavor and hopes to see more teams competing in Odyssey of the Mind in future years.

"The first year is always the hardest," Onofry said. "But I'm hoping that this program grows and reaches the middle school and even the high school."

Having been a coach himself in years past, Onofry understands the time commitment that is involved for parents and teachers who volunteer to coach the students.

Despite the time required, Onofry feels that it is worth it for both the coaches and the participants.

"This is an exciting opportunity that encourages creativity and cooperation in the students," Onofry said. "It's a great thing to see people actually getting excited about academics."

The Dover students who competed at the Odyssey of the Mind regionals gave a presentation to the board of education on Tuesday night, hoping to get permission for a field trip to watch the state Level competition in Binghamton on March 29.

"It will be good for the students to see the level they need to get to in order to compete in states," Onofry said. "I support the opportunity, it will be a great experience."

For more information on Odyssey of the Mind, visit www.odysseyofthemind.com.

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