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Odyssey Teams Perform in Savannah

By Angela Wilkerson
The team from EXCEL in the Afternoon Community Group will compete in the Georgia Odyssey of the Mind state tournament on Saturday in Columbus. They performed their show for the Board of Education on Thursday evening.

The article below will explain
While adults could teach necessary skills, no adults were allowed to tell the students how to solve a problem or to make any decisions concerning the shows that the groups were writing.

This year Georgia Odyssey of the Mind is celebrating its 25th year in the program that teaches creative problem solving.

Thanks to the Decatur County School Foundation who funded the trip, four Bainbridge Odyssey teams traveled to Jenkins High School in Savannah on Saturday, March 1st, for their first Odyssey of the Mind Regional Tournament.

While most tournaments are a win or not win proposition, Odyssey of the Mind places more importance on the journey than the outcome. Placing in the top positions for advancement to the state competition means placing high in three different areas:
long-term (the show),
style (the creativity that adds a bonus to the show), and
spontaneous (a never before seen short term problem for teams to solve at the competition.)
For those of us who coached these wonderful teams, they were winners from the time they got on the bus ready to show the judges what they had learned.

Last fall, teams from Bainbridge High School, Hutto Middle School, Elcan-King Elementary School, and the EXCEL in the Afternoon program at Bainbridge College selected their problems provided by Creative Competitions, Inc. and began their own odysseys. Each team had to solve a problem of its choice and then create a play that included designing and making the costumes, sets, and props to explain the solution.

While adults could teach necessary skills, no adults were allowed to tell the students how to solve a problem or to make any decisions concerning the shows that the groups were writing. It was a "hands-off" project for adults. For first-year teams and their coaches, the no outside assistance approach proved to be the most difficult lesson of all.

As the students decided what they wanted, they were taught the means of achieving their goals. They learned how to use box cutters properly and how to measure and cut PVC pipe. Some learned to use a sewing machine, iron with a steam iron, cut letters, and paint. For several, the act of pinning a straight pin into material was a challenge. Everyone had fun discovering the doors learning would open to new possibilities.

Part of the learning process involved evaluation. Teams needed to check their progress constantly and determine if they were ready for competition. The BHS teams, coached by faculty members Derrick Frazier and Kit Griffin, decided they needed more time to understand the program before entering the competitive phase. They elected to run Odyssey as a club this year with a goal of competing next year.

Coaches Andrew Wilson and Susan Grubbs from Hutto Middle School began their year with two Division II teams.

Tackling Problem #1: Road Rally, were Derek Allen, Chris Brown, Caitlin Cato, Eric Chambliss, Jerry Howell, Merrith Hubert, and Dominique Morgan. They worked very hard toward building their vehicle, but because they did not feel ready to perform when tournament time arrived, they elected to compete in the spontaneous portion of the tournament only. It was not an easy decision to reach since participation in both spontaneous and the long-term show was necessary for advancement. Their decision gave them valuable experience, however, and a chance to see what others had learned this year.

Hutto's second team worked on Problem #5: The Eccentrics. While members Macy Black, Allie Brock, Nikki Catt, and Alexis Williams did not advance to state, they also learned from the experience.

Elcan-King's Curriculum Director Randi New coached Bridget Walker, Ralyn Willis, Bethanie Robinson, Jordan Davis, Stevie Hall, and Bradley Higley, The team completed Problem #5: The Eccentrics in Division I by selecting a problem with one of the Earth's systems and then creating three eccentric characters who would solve the problem, have a celebration, and create a new fad. Their show about the geosphere with gophers complaining about the building of a new hotel was delightful, and the team placed 4th in long-term. With their other scores, they came in 5th over-all, a very good showing for a 1st year team.

Because their schools did not elect to have memberships this year, team members from EXCEL in the Afternoon Community Group were sponsored by the Bainbridge-Decatur County School System as a community outreach group with support for the Bainbridge-Decatur County Council for the Arts.

Coached by Paula Chambers from Bainbridge College and Angela Wilkerson, Division I team members Savannah Padgett and Tara Stevens from John Johnson, Jonathan Thrower from Potter Street, and Jeremy Perkins and Malasia Taylor from Jones-Wheat worked on Problem #5: The Eccentrics.

They chose hydrosphere as their Earth system and devised a plan for an evil character to steal all the water in the world to make the world's largest aquarium by means of his "water sucker." The Eccentrics Mr. James Peanut and Mrs. Bead Head managed to stop the plan with their packing peanuts and nets made of string and beads. They celebrated with an original rap and from the left over peanuts and beads, a real estate character named Bob and his assistant, Queensly, created "Sticky Islands" as the newest craze in resorts. This team placed 2nd in their long-term show and 3rd over-all to earn the right to advance to state. Coaches Suzanne Loeffler and Martha Henderson prepared the team for the spontaneous part of the competition.

Each team is required to supply a judge and a volunteer for the regional tournament. Natalie and Kevin Higley, Frank Loeffler, and Susan Grubbs represented the teams as judges in Savannah. Michele Miller and Laura Hall served as tournament volunteers. Because their team advances to the State Tournament, Mr. Loeffler and Mrs. Miller will continue their roles in Columbus, April 19th.

Odyssey is an organization in which students cheer for their competition because they know and understand the work involved in achieving the goal of finishing the problem and not giving up along the way. While we applaud the advancing team and wish them more success as they work toward the April 19th State Tournament and perhaps an Odyssey of the Mind World Finals competition at the University of Maryland in May, we celebrate the achievements of all the teams who participated in Odyssey this year.

We began the year with individuals and finished with team members who are already looking forward to next year's problems. The life-skills they have learned along the way will be part of their own personal odyssey forever.

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