| Watertown Daily Times |

Teams of north country students on Saturday showed what they can do outside of the classroom: they performed silly skits, built vehicles powered by mousetraps and made simple items perform difficult tasks at the regional Odyssey of the Mind tournament.

"It's a way for kids to shine in an area other than academics, and you get to see children in a different light," said Martha B. Jones, a head judge at Saturday's event, which featured 62 teams from 11 school districts competing at Watertown High School and Case Middle School. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many students. They get to expand their horizons and see and do things they wouldn't otherwise be able to."

Odyssey of the Mind is an international problem-solving competition for students in kindergarten through college. All competitors worldwide are given the same choice of problems.

Ms. Jones also has been a coach and has taken teams to regional, state and world competitions. On Saturday, as teams filed out of the rooms where they solved their spontaneous problems, she looked at each student's face to see how confident he or she looked.

Teams must solve spontaneous verbal or hands-on problems. They may need to answer a question or build something together.

The more creative they are with their answers, the more points they receive. The students tend to be nervous for that part of the competition because they don't know what they're going to get until they walk in that day.

"It gets them used to talking in front of people," said team coach Megan M. Krug, a teacher at Glenfield Elementary School. "They work as a team and it fosters friendship."

In addition to a spontaneous problem, teams must solve a long-term problem. It's something the students have been working on since the fall. The teams are able to choose one of five problems, which they must solve by performing a skit.

Lowville Team B members chose Problem 3. They presented a skit to judges that incorporated Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Prince William's upcoming wedding at Westminster Abbey and a London Bridge made of cardboard, Styrofoam cups and a blue sheet.

"We separated into two groups and researched all of the characters and scenes," said team member Bailey J. Zicari, 10. "We picked Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde because we didn't think anyone else would pick it."

The scenery included a painted cardboard replica of the outside of Westminster Abbey that folded down to become the inside of the abbey. The seven-member team had been working on the scenery and script since the beginning of the school year, meeting every Tuesday for most of the time, and every day for the past week to prepare for the competition, members said.

"They've been a joy to work with, and we've had moments of hyperactivity," team co-coach Stacey J. Petzoldt said. "We've been able to see their maturity level grow so much."

The first-place team in each of the five long-term problems from every division at the regional tournament secures a spot in the state tournament March 26 in Binghamton. From there, the teams will have a chance to advance to the world tournament in May in Maryland.

The teams that will move on:

* Problem I: Dexter Elementary School Team A, Division I; General Bruce C. Clarke Junior/Senior High School, Division II; Alexandria Central School, Division III.

* Problem II: Beaver River Central School, Division I; Lyme Central School, Division II; Watertown Area Homeschoolers, Division III.

* Problem III: Wilson Elementary School, Division I; Lowville Central School Team A, Division II; Beaver River Central School, Division III.

* Problem IV: Wilson Elementary School, Division I; Alexandria Central School, Division II.

* Problem V: Beaver River Central School and Mannsville Elementary School, Division I; Beaver River Central School, Division II.

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