| The Chronicle |
Chester team takes third for 'Discovered Treasures'

By Geri Corey
Chester -- "We felt ready for the competition," said Julia Ryan, a fifth grader at Chester Elementary School. "We were done with the skits and we wanted the competition to come. But we kept practicing to be perfect until it was time to compete."

Their hard work and practice paid off. The seven-student team of third, fourth and fifth graders placed third out of 15 competing teams in Division 1 at Odyssey of the Mind, held on Feb. 20 at BOCES in Goshen.

"We were just in a little bit of shock when we heard our team had won," said Haley Wilton, a fourth grader on the team. "Marti and I just stood there. We were the last ones on stage."

The coach shared their sentiment. "We were all a little shocked," said Maureen Coffey. "It was all very exciting."

Odyssey of the Mind is a worldwide competition that encourages creative thinking and problem solving. Students choose one among five problems to explore and work out using skits. Students must do the thinking, planning and work themselves without outside help.

"As a coach, I can question them and hopefully lead them, but I can't tell them what to do or do the work myself," Coffey explained. At two different sessions, she watched as team members discussed a solution to a problem that she knew wouldn't work.

"They finally realized it themselves," she noted.

Their problem, "Discovered Treasures," asked students to create a skit with two discoveries, one historical and one from the future. The team based its historical discovery on the 2009 find of a Viking anchor in Scotland and based their future discovery on a meteor striking the Empire State Building. How are these two incidents ultimately tied together?

The team's creative solution showed careful thought and great imagination: The needle part of the skyscraper is carried across the Atlantic Ocean by a tsunami. After 1,000 years, a girl finds it in Scotland. Both treasures end up in the same museum in Scotland.

"It was really fun. If you had fun, you won," said fourth grade student Marti Greco philosophically.

"But," added Haley, "It's not just about having fun. It's about being creative, showing good sportsmanship, and focusing on what you're doing."

The team had to make all of the costumes, props and scenery for its presentation. With their creativity flowing, all team members shared the work, like transforming a dishwasher carton into a museum, and a coat rack into two different backdrops -- a beach and a farm. Some Styrofoam, packing material, a box, and a garden stake made up their Empire State Building.

Marti and Sofia wrote poems, Christi and Danny wrote a song, Haley sewed a costume, and Emma wrote a humorous skit. Their combined efforts brought them success.

"We worked well together," said Julia, who will be in sixth grade next year. She said she'll miss everyone on this team when she goes to the Chester Academy next year.

"We're like a puzzle," Christi added.

The coach agreed. "They worked beautifully together," Mrs. Coffey said. "I was pleasantly surprised to see how well they worked together. During our session, everyone contributed good ideas that other team members tweaked and they were okay with it."

She would like to see them all continue with Odyssey of the Mind in the future. Team members agree that the fun and excitement of the event made all the weeks of hard work worthwhile, and they are already looking forward to next year's competition.

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