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EDUCATION: 'Odyssey' shows students' creativity

By Bill Wolcott
MEDINA -- Imagine Hercules in a pink apron or with pieces of cotton for muscles.

The students at Oak Orchard Elementary School in Medina and Washington Hunt in Lockport did as part of the creative performances at 28th annual Odyssey of the Mind competition at Medina High School on Saturday.

Students from eight schools participated in challenges called "Earth Trek," "Teach Yer Creature," "The Lost Labor of Heracles," "Shock Waves" and "Superstition." There were 33 teams in three divisions and Oak Orchard placed first and students from Washington Hunt placed second in The Lost Labor of Heracles.

The row of judges sang out "Heracles, Hercules. It's all Greek to me." to trigger the involved and innovative 10-minute plays. The strongest man, who is known as "Hercules" in the west, but is "Heracles" in Greece-- and the students assumed their roles.

The skits did not quite go off like clockwork, but there was substantial teamwork. Heracles was given 12 classic labors by King Eurystheus, but was assigned a 13th labor ("The Lost Labor") by the elementary students

The children came up with the plot and the dialogue and made the scenery, props and costumes, according to Oak Orchard coach Lois Donovan. Mitchell Wienke's muscles of cotton were coming loose as the children were waiting in the hall to take the stage, but Heracles was able to straighten his biceps in time for the show. The props were well-done, but the ship was left in the hall.

The children, who spent a couple months creating the story, had to improvise in front of the judges. "It was a little scary when we started it, then we were all cool," said Wienke (Heracles). "Someone was supposed to get the ship. No one ever brought it in, but I just swam over there. I was hoping they were thinking it was the joke."

Joke or rehearsed, the audience laughed and the judges voted Oak Orchard first place. Wienke, Jacob Bensley, Quinton Simmons, Owen Frasier, Elsa Bieliski, Alyssa Beyer and Devin Hogan earned a trip to the state competition in Binghamton.

Alyssa, who played a goddess, said, "It felt kinda like I was going back in Greek times with Heracles, the king and the Greek goddesses. We all worked together as a team to create a lost labor for Heracles. We took the story of the golden apple and put it into our own words."

"It was totally worth it," she added.

Dominick Deflippo looked the part of Heracles for Washington Hunt. He appeared in the road rally last year when the team took last place. This year Washington Hunt took second place.

"It's all about teamwork," said Deflippo who agreed to wear a pink apron for the team to complete the lost labor. "I think it went great."

Tiffany Platte played a three-headed dog and researched the creature on the Internet. She learned the legend had different "tails" from snakes to dragons.

"I think we did really good," she said.

Coach Megan Destrow said, "They come up with it all on their own. It's amazing to watch the creative process."

Xavier Krull, a fifth grader at Washington Hunt, cheered for his school in the crowded chorus room. His team competed in "Superstition" and placed second. "I was nervous before, but when I came out I wasn't very scared," he said.

The children acted out a good luck superstition (crossing fingers), a bad luck superstition (walking under ladder) and a team superstition (stepping on a grave at midnight.)

The Odyssey of the Mind is an international program that provides creative problem solving opportunities for students from kindergarten through college. About 25 countries participate in the program.

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