| CarthagePress.com |
Local students gear up for Odyssey

By David Mink
CARTHAGE, Mo. -- Five local teams head to Rolla

Students from Carthage High School, Carthage Junior High and Fairview Elementary are putting the final touches on their performances for a regional competition in Rolla, Mo. on Saturday.

A total of 31 students from the Carthage R-9 School District will represent the schools at Rolla's Odyssey of the Mind regional competition. Fairview will field a five-student group, while the high school will be represented by a seven-student team and the junior high by three teams -- two with six students each and one with seven.

The Odyssey of the Mind is an international educational program whose mission is to provide creative problem-solving opportunities for students worldwide, according to the organization. The competition asks students to address a detailed, page-long problem with a live performance of the student's own creation.

The problems ask students to do things like write a play in which several different types of food argue for the inclusion of another type of food into a different group. Almost all of the feature problems presented by the organization involve the students writing and performing some type of skit or play. The rules for those performances, however, are very detailed, taking up pages and pages of extensive copy.

Sherryle Jones, geography teacher for CJH and team leader for several of the student groups, said the kids have put in a lot of work into this year's performances.

"These kids have put in about 120 hours of work outside of school," she said as the students worked around her after school on Tuesday. Their schedule for that evening was set from 3-7 p.m.

"It's been a challenge," she said. "Since Christmas they've been staying (after school) two days a week."
She smiled as the kids passed around a box of Nutty Bars.

"But I've found out one thing," she said. "As long as I have food, they do OK."

At the Rolla competition, the kids will be graded on their performance as well as their response to a spontaneous problem. These last-minute problems often involve creating specific things out of random household items, or doing word association problems on the spot. They have no time to prepare.

The teams who place either first or second at Rolla will go on to the world finals in Lansing, Michigan in May. At the finals, they'll interact and compete with students from around the world, from Poland to Singapore.

The biggest challenge they'll face, however, is raising the money to do it. Purchasing admission to the finals will cost $485 per student, and that's not including transportation to the event.

The admission fee, however, provides for their room, board and all their amenities.

"If they win, they'll only have five weeks to raise the money," said Jones.

Although there's no word now on how they plan to do that, Jones noted with another grin that donations would be generously accepted.

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