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Odyssey of the Mind

Lindsey Chester

Cary, NC- As many folks around the Triangle enjoyed the balmy weather this weekend, school children form Wake County gathered at Mills Park Elementary to practice their spontaneous problem solving skills as part of their school “Odyssey of the Mind” teams.

What is “Odyssey of the Mind”?

Odyssey of the Mind  an international educational program that provides creative problem-solving opportunities for students from kindergarten through college.

Team members apply their creativity to solve problems that range from building mechanical devices to presenting their own interpretation of literary classics. They then bring their solutions to competition on the local, state, and World level.

Thousands of teams from throughout the U.S. and from about 25 other countries participate in the program. For more than twenty five years, this unique program has helped teachers generate excitement in their students. By tapping into creativity, and through encouraging imaginative paths to problem-solving, students learn skills that will provide them with the ability to solve problems — great and small — for a lifetime.

Who can participate?

Any children from elementary school age through college can join a team.

Teams are formed by division and compete against teams in the same division and problem. Grade level determines the division for teams in the U.S. Schools decide that they will be part of the program by asking parent and teacher volunteers to come forward to lead the program. Then more volunteers are needed to coach each team.

Each team must also provide judges for the competition. Recruiting usually begins in the fall.

Some schools like Morrisville Elementary have many years of competition history, while recently opened schools like Laurel Park and Mills Park are new participants.

How do they compete?

Teams pick a long term project from among 5 categories.

The teams are led by an adult as they explore their problem- but the students do all the work and research, the adult is a facilitator only. Funds are very limited as to supply purchases, so that is another area for creativity.

The teams begin work in the Fall and the competition this year is March 6 in Chapel Hill. The long term project is Part 1 of the competition in which they get on stage and present/ perform   their piece.

Part 2  is the spontaneous problem or question- which can incorporate constructing something as a group, or thinking fast verbally amongst themselves either collectively or in rotation. The teams are scored on how creative or common are their solutions to these problems.

The combination of how they score on these 2 parts, gives their final score. From this regional competition, the teams can move on to Statewide and then Worlds Competition in Florida.

How Can Your Child Participate?

Find out  if your school participates in Odyssey of the Mind. If it doesn’t, visit the Odyssey of the Mind Website and volunteer to chair this committee.

Get your School’s PTA involved. The school will need to become a member and leaders and coaches will need to receive training. Some schools have participated for 20 years and have made it all the way to Worlds.

Challenge yourself- it is a great “thinking outside the Box” opportunity for the school kids. There are no “correct” answers in Odyssey, just like Life.

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