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An education odyssey at Wells Jr. High

By Steve Bodnar
WELLS -- A fictitious movie theater full of people has been killed off, but who is to blame?

According to a critical bag of corn chips, a box of popcorn should take the rap for the mysterious departure of the humans.

A jury rules in favor of the chips and sentences the box of popcorn to the compost pile.

This "food court" skit, performed by a group of Wells Junior High seventh-graders, not only was awarded a first-place finish during a statewide version of the problem-solving competition Odyssey of the Mind, but also a shot to compete at the international level.

"This helps you to become a better, well-rounded problem solver," said Maddie Taylor, one of the seven junior high girls who hope to participate in the international competition scheduled for May 26 to 30 at Michigan State University.

Amid teammates during an April 1 skit night at Wells Elementary School, Taylor said it takes humor, spontaneity and a group effort to pull off a well-received performance.

Taylor plays a walking, talking corn on the cob.

According to the Odyssey of the Mind Web site, the competition promotes educational objectives like team building, long-term problem solving and management skills.

Emily Borkowski, who plays the bag of chips, said one of the most rewarding aspects of participating in the competition is seeing everything come together after months of practice.

While the girls plan on attending the international competition, they still need to raise about $9,000 to cover travel, lodging and meal expenses, said coach and Wells Elementary School teacher Gail Moulton.

She said the girls will hold several service-oriented fundraisers over the next few weeks, including car washes, bottle drives, pancake breakfasts and bean suppers.

Car washes will be held from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 10 and 24, and May 1 and 15, at Wells Junior High on Route 1.

Although Moulton's team, which also includes Hannah Bragdon, Abigail Moulton, Jenna Ingalls, Julianne Fitzpatrick and Ashley Szcapza, pulled off a top performance, teams from the elementary school and Wells High School also received high marks during the state competition.

According to parents, Odyssey of the Mind simply is a great way to involve kids in engaging activities that are educational.

"Any child can belong to this," said Rachel Clarrage, a mother and coach of an Odyssey of the Mind team. "They learn to cooperate together while balancing other activities."

She said that Sue Onion and Dianne Hussey deserve recognition for their involvement in helping to coordinate the program.

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