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Odyssey teams kick off regional contest

By Alyssa Sunkin / The Citizen
Friday, March 14, 2008 12:01 PM EDT

AURELIUS - Students don't need paleontologists to theorize why the dinosaurs became extinct or resurrect the legendary Greek poets Homer and Hesiod to ask them if the nine muses were the source of inspiration for their epics.

In just a few days, they will create and present their own take on the dinosaurs' extinction in a humorous performance and determine for themselves whether the Greek mythical muses were the origin of artistic and scientific ingenuity.

On Saturday, 68 teams - 500 students - will tackle these problems and more during the annual Odyssey of the Mind regional competition held this year at the Cayuga-Onondaga Board of Cooperative Educational Services Regional Education Center.

"The problem solving helps the students to solve problems as a team," said Odyssey of the Mind Regional Co-Director Linda Nichols.

She pointed out that team building and critical thinking are the biggest and most important lessons students take out from the competition.

"I think that's important for kids," she said. "When they get out in the world they have to work with other people. They have to work through the processes of creative thinking for it."

This year, all nine school districts in the Cayuga-Onondaga BOCES are participating in Odyssey of the Mind with representatives coming from the elementary, middle and high school levels.

While in years past the regional competition was held at Auburn High School, BOCES will host it because it now has a facility to accommodate students, parents, judges and volunteers, Nichols said.

In keeping with tradition, the regional Odyssey of the Mind held the annual pin design contest. Zoe Shelton, of Cato-Meridian Middle School, is the 2008 winner.

Created in 1978 by C. Samuel Micklus, a professor emeritus at Rowan University in New Jersey, the international education program provides creative problem-solving opportunities for students from kindergarten to college. There are thousands of teams in the United States and from about 25 participating countries.

Odyssey of the Mind teams formed in the fall, at which point they choose a problem to work on, Nichols said. Over the past several months the teams created eight minute skits based on their respective problems to present to judges in the regional competition. Additionally, each team will be given a "spontaneous" problem and asked to extemporaneously devise a solution.

Teams will advance to the state competition at SUNY Binghamton March 29, and some teams may not stop there. The Odyssey of the Mind world competition will be held at the University of Maryland in June.

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