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Team heads for Odyssey finals

by Jan Holst Tuesday April 07, 2009, 1:24 PM
A rookie Odyssey of the Mind Team from Breton Downs Elementary School in East Grand Rapids placed first in regional finals at Delton Kellogg Public Schools in Haslett, and is headed for state competition.

While many Odyssey teams begin preparing in the fall, this group of six got their start in early 2009. Their task was to write and produce an original skit, identifying the "Lost Labor of Heracles." The Breton Downs kids performed an eight-minute story revolving around a magic cinnamon stick.

Plot complications included a fish gaining control, a few granted and un-granted wishes, angry kings and angry gods, and for some reason an apple pie.

Judges consider the plot, but they also look closely at costuming and set construction, which is also done by the kids. "The judges gave us more points if our things are handmade," said one team member. And so they made things to carry on set--things like pillars and even fruit.

Backdrops were made from "shower curtains" on rings for easy changing. A unique challenge was a three-headed dragon, which the group solved by outfitting a team member with one head on his head and one head attached to each hand.

Students learned many new skills. With a budget of $125, they had to "do some math." They saved money by using white sheets for "togas." When Eleanor Lowen was cast as a god who comes to life, they created a quick costume change with a "backpack like thing." Alex Adams learned to sew using a sewing machine. Ellie Lancaster brushed up editing skills.

Not only was it a rookie year for Breton Downs students, the three mom coaches - Christine Adams, Paula Lancaster, and Sarah Lowen -- had not participated in Odyssey of the Mind before either. The group committed to two nights a week and weekends, in other words a "lot of time" to prepare for competition.

In addition to the skit, teams are given an impromptu problem at competition, in which Team Breton Downs scored the highest in their division.

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