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Skit becomes odyssey for students

By JL Watson * jlwatson@news-press.com * April 12, 2008
The president has a sleep disorder, and every time she falls asleep she wakes up in a different location.

Fortunately, with the help of a cast of characters, including a dog, Mrs. Claus and a pilot, the president finds her way back to Washington, D.C.

The skit is an eight-minute presentation of first- and second-grade students at Hector A. Cafferata Jr. Elementary School. The group of nine students are on a team that participates in Odyssey of the Mind, an international program designed to challenge students' creative thinking and problem solving abilities.

Students had to come up with their theme based on criteria from the national organization and could not receive any help from parents or teachers. Their decision to include themes from Christmas, Hawaii, and pets made for creative brainstorming, Kendal Henlin said. Kendal, 8, serves as as one of the two narrators for the skit.

"Everyone loves Christmas and Christmas represents the North Pole," she said, on how the team concocted their idea. "We added the dog because most people's first pet is a dog or a cat. We put it all together into one idea."

The team took its idea to the regional Odyssey of the Mind competition at Cypress Lake High School. Of the 24 teams in their age category, five were chosen from a lottery system to compete at the state level this month. The Cafferata team competes at the University of Central Florida this weekend.

"They're going to see what it takes for teams to get there on a competitive level," teacher and coach Tammy Thurman said. "They're going to learn so much by being there."

Students in grades kindergarten through second grade do not compete against other teams at the state level, but receive ratings from judges and comments on whether or not they stuck to the competition theme and rules. Once students reach third grade, they enter the competitive category of the meet.

Jayda Allen, 6, plays Mrs. Claus, and said she was nervous during the regional performance.

"I was nervous doing it in front of strangers," she said. "I'm going to practice a lot."

Kim Fonock, Cafferata Odyssey of the Mind coordinator, said the point of the program is to challenge students to think on their feet.

"They share creativity and solve problems all by themselves," she said.

Thurman is confident her students will do well this weekend, and all of team members are planning to return next year--a year older and a year wiser.

"My goal is for them to learn as much as they can," she said.

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