| The Abington Journal |
A coaching 'Odyssey'

Each Northeast Pennsylvania Odyssey of the Mind team needs a coach. Coaches do not help the team solve the problem, but help them develop problem-solving skills and create a framework for the team to function within.

The coach of each team in the educational program that provides students from kindergarten through college with creative problem-solving opportunities, makes a schedule of practices and sets basic rules which focus on teamwork, cooperation and the use of constructive criticism. Each Odyssey problem has a budget, usually around $150, which is the maximum the group can spend on materials. The coach facilitates getting those materials by organizing trips to places like Home Depot, Jo-Ann Fabrics and A.C. Moore. The budget keeps students from using a lot of purchased items and encourages them to design and build things from recycled objects.

Rose Fazio coached her son's Odyssey team from Waverly Elementary in Regionals, March 6. It's her third year involved with Odyssey, but her first as lead coach.

"It actually started three school years ago," Fazio explained. "My son, Joey, was a fourth-grader on a team coached by Chris Neary. Chris' husband had assisted her all year, and they were regional and then state champions. When it came time to travel to the world tournament, her husband wasn't available, so I stepped in."

This year, Fazio's younger son, Angelo, a Waverly Elementary student, wanted to participate in Odyssey but there was no coach. Fazio stepped to the plate. The team of seven third graders began meeting weekly in October. They chose their problem, The Gift of Flight, learned about aircrafts and propulsion systems, then set about designing and building their crafts.

At the same time, they had to come up with a creative theme in which to display their creations. The team chose "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids." The set they constructed out of oversized boxes was painted to look like their fictional dad's lab. Several minutes into their performance, when the imaginary shrinking ray zapped them all into miniature versions of themselves, the props on the set were switched. Suddenly, there was an iPod, a walkie-talkie and a pencil, all huge in relation to the cast of children who made them out of cardboard, paint and used boxes. The cast then used their self-created air crafts to try to get their fictional dad's attention, thus fitting the technical solution into a creative theme.

"I do it for the kids," Fazio said. "It's amazing what it does for their self-confidence. In school, there's always a right and a wrong answer. In real life, there are often many answers to a given problem. They come up with their solution and then they go to competition and see other kids who did it differently. They think, 'Wow, there are a million different solutions and no wrong answer.'"

The State Tournament will be held in Williamsport April 10

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