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Children's creations highlight Odyssey of the Mind

By Mike Chapman
Sunday, March 8, 2009

A monster sporting a Cyclops eye and draped with crushed aluminum cans, backdrops made of painted cardboard and a giant fake eraser were all essential to the Greek play presented by a team of boys from Redding Christian School on Saturday at the annual Odyssey of the Mind tournament.

The seven fifth- and sixth-graders were excitedly making final preparations with their props outside a room at Mountain View Middle School for the "Lost Labor of Heracles" competition.

The boys were among 450 children from primary grades to high school who let their imaginations run wild for the 31-year-old international education program that challenges students to use their creativity through skits and demonstrations. The 71 teams arrived from schools as far away as Yreka, Durham and Herlong near the Nevada border.

"We focus on fostering good sportsmanship, good teamwork, creativity and problem solving," said Sue Crandell, a retired teacher from Contra Costa County who serves as the regional Odyssey director.

"The No. 1 rule is no outside assistance," she said, meaning parents must keep their distance.

Tanner Dore, 11, of Redding played the creature wearing the black gown of crushed cans attached with fishing line. "It's supposed to be scales," Tanner said.

The eye painted on Tanner's forehead? "We all just came up with it," he said.

And the giant eraser was employed to symbolically erase the memory of the mythological adventure.

Other "problems" left up to students to solve came under the headings of Earth Trek, Teach Yer Creature, Superstition, Candy Factory and Shock Waves, which measured how much weight a balsa-wood structure could withstand.

A successful team from Lassen High School brought a 14.8-gram balsa-wood tower that stood up to the weight of 235 pounds in the allotted time before being crushed under the strain of 310 pounds. The Susanville team came in first in its division.

The top teams Saturday will advance to statewide competition next month in Brentwood, Crandell said. From there, a world competition will be held at Iowa State University.

Student Tariq Malik received the Outstanding Omer Award for spirit. The Ranatra Fusca award for outstanding creativity went to the Division 3 team from University Preparatory School, Crandell said.

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