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Greenville, Grattan going to Odyssey finals

Jessica Dudenhofer
Staff Writer

Students from the Greenville Public Schools and Grattan Academy will have an opportunity to shine creatively during Saturday's Odyssey of the Mind state competition at East Kentwood High School.

Eight teams from Greenville's Baldwin Heights, Cedar Crest and Lincoln Heights elementary schools and Greenville Middle School plus two squads from Grattan Academy in Eureka Township will test their creativity, teamwork and problem-solving skills against about 150 other teams from across the state.

Those finishing first or second in any of the five creative categories will be eligible to advance to the Odyssey of the Mind World Finals at the University of Maryland next month.

Odyssey of the Mind is the world's oldest international creative problem-solving competition among students in kindergarten through college. The program began in 1978 with 28 schools in New Jersey, but today there are more than 3,500 members around the world.

"They're basically promoting creativity," Greenville Odyssey of the Mind coordinator Charlotte Lothian said of the competition. "We're trying to teach kids to think outside the box."

Each team is made up of up to seven members who have spent most of the school year developing a solution to one of a variety of "problems" that encompass technical vehicle, structural, artistic or classical themes. The problems are open-ended with no "right" answer.

Students must solve the "problem" as a group without adult assistance, with coaches and parents providing only supervision and guidance to make the solution possible.

"We say it's 'kids hands-on, adult hands-off,'" Lothian said with a chuckle. "It's really a cool program."

Grattan Academy Coach Hillarie Huskins agrees that the competition helps students learn vital skills, which is why the academy is participating for the second straight year.

"They are learning cooperation, problem-solving and performance," Huskins said.

Lothian said Greenville has participated in the program for at least 25 years and has seen some competitors go on to study engineering and other complicated professions. Some of those students' children now are competing as another generation.

"This is something they'll use the rest of their lives," she said.

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