| Watertown Daily Times |
Students take deep look at fast food

ODYSSEY TEAM: Bay school skit explores a 'supersized' society wiped out by a flood

ALEXANDRIA BAY -- If you combine fast food, underwater exploration and a natural disaster that wipes out the United States, you've got the basic elements of the skit that the Alexandria High School Odyssey of the Mind team will perform at the state level problem-solving competition this weekend.

"We're confident in our abilities and I think we have a fair shot," team coach Teresa Lowe said. "But you can't be too confident at the state level because you never know what else is out there."

Odyssey of the Mind is an international competition that poses puzzles for teams of students, in kindergarten through college, to solve. Teams are judged on both their problem-solving skills and the creativity and style they show in their solutions.

The seven-person group of Alexandria High School seniors named the team "Acute Senioritis," which is a pretty accurate description of the students' states of mind at this point in the school year, Ms. Lowe said.

Team members are Scott MacPherson, 17; Teagan A. Ward, 18; Zachery C. Rufa, 18; Robin D. LeClerc, 18; Vincent J. Hoover, 18; Matthew P. Remington, 17, and Evan J. Simmons, 17.

On Tuesday evening, one of the group's last meetings before the competition, the students gathered in Ms. Lowe's classroom. Some sewed costumes while others worked on painting and assembling the set. They all listened to music and chatted while getting ready for the next round of the competition.

The team's skit, which had to incorporate elements of the past and future and feature costumes, props and a set created by the team, was inspired by an interest in the environment and the documentary "Supersize Me," which the students watched in economics class, Mr. MacPherson said. The documentary is critical of fast-food culture, and it focuses on McDonald's and the health risks associated with eating too much fast food.

Part of the skit is set in the future, when underwater explorers come across a statue of Ronald McDonald, a symbol of the fallen American civilization that was wiped out by massive flooding. Characters also travel to the pyramids in Egypt, where they come across a fast-food chain called The Sphinx.

The students made all of their costumes and props themselves, including the Ronald McDonald costume, a sphinx made out of Legos and a body cast of Mr. Simmons made out of packing tape and spray painted black for the scene that is set under water. The figure is attached to a rod by string, which one of the students holds behind a curtain to make it look like the figure is floating.

The students are doing everything themselves, from sewing costumes to building a set out of wood and painting the rotating backdrop: one side for the scene that takes place underwater and another for the one that takes place near the pyramids in Egypt.

Most of the team members have gone to the state level of the Odyssey competition before. It's that experience that has gotten the group to this level of the competition, Ms. Lowe said -- that, and humor.

"Their senses of humor play a big part in it," Ms. Lowe said. "They've all got that acting gene."

Several of the students were in the school's production of "Annie" last weekend. They've put a lot of time into getting ready for the competition, despite juggling extracurricular activities and homework, not to mention their cases of acute senioritis.

The Odyssey team has been meeting two or three times each week for 10 weeks. And that means spending many long hours together.

"We all have very strong personalities," Miss LeClerc said. "And when we all come together, they just collide."

For their coach, this competition will be bittersweet because the students she's worked with for years will be graduating soon.

"I'm definitely going to miss them," Ms. Lowe said. "We're like a big family. And when we argue, we argue with love."

"And hot glue," Mr. Rufa said.

The team will compete Saturday at Binghamton University. There, the students will have a chance to advance to the 2010 World Finals in May at Michigan State University.

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