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Westridge elementary advances to state

Lake Ridge, Va. - Six teams from Westridge Elementary School recently ventured to West Potomac High School in Alexandria to compete against public and private schools from across the Northern Virginia area in this year's Odyssey of the Mind Regional Tournament. One of those teams placed first in their age divi-sion.

After months of preparation, the teams had the opportunity to highlight their hard work. Odyssey of the Mind is an international organization that provides the opportunity for children to develop creative and critical thinking skills and apply them to real-life situations.

Each year teams are given a list of five long-term problems. From this list, they must choose one as their challenge and spend several months preparing a performance. This includes writing scripts, designing sets, and creating characters appropriate to the problem.

In addition to the long-term problem solving process, teams are required to participate in spontaneous problem solving. The team members are given a short amount of time to provide creative responses to a variety of stimuli without advance preparation. Teams are scored based upon the creativity of their responses.

Teams of students consist of no more than seven members and their coach--who guides them through the creative problem-solving process while they sharpen their own negotiating and problem-solving skills in a team environment.

With the support of the Westridge Parent Teacher Association, parent volunteers, and Linda Mills-Lough, gifted education teacher and the schools' Odyssey of the Mind coordinator, Westridge Elementary School sent six teams that competed in the various problem-solving activities.

Each of the Westridge teams performed well, with one team earning first place in their age division. Coach Lee Venturino led the team of Logan Venturino, Olivia Venturino, Allison Carswell, Emma Johnson, Logan Garren, Nick Dunard, and Dominique Ardis.

This winning team accepted the challenge to create a "humorous performance where a food item accuses another of being unhealthy and must defend itself among its food peers. All characters are food items including the accused, the accuser, and a jury that is not portrayed by team members, and additional team-created characters. The jury reveals its decision to the audience." The Westridge Elementary team earned a very high score for solving their long-term problem and a perfect score for their spontaneous problem solution.

"The student's performance was exceptionally funny, highly sophisticated, and amazingly creative," Mills-Lough said.

The first place Westridge Elementary School team will now advance to the state level competition in Newport News on Saturday. A first- or second-place win at this event earns an invitation to the World Finals at Michigan State University in May.

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