Friday, June 21, 2019

Odyssey of the Mind: World Finals update

By Craig Bailey

The team of students from Windham Primary and Manchester Schools have returned from their trip to participate in the Odyssey of the Mind (OOM) World Finals. The event took place at Michigan State University, from May 22 to 25. The team consisted of students, in grades three to five, including: Nick Verrill, Nick Jenkins, Cameron Weeks, Ewan O’Shea, Marek Slomczynski, Ashlynn Cuthbert and Adam Slomczynski. The first five previously competed in the OOM World Finals, along with their coach April O’Shea.

OOM Students
OOM is an international creative problem-solving program that engages students in their learning by allowing their knowledge and ideas to come to life in an exciting, productive environment. 

Participants build self-confidence, develop life skills, create new friendships, and are able to recognize and explore their true potential. OOM proves that students can have fun while they learn.

The team reports their two days of driving, nine hours each day, to/from the event went smoothly, although their goal is to fly to the event next year. They were especially appreciative of the school for lining everyone up in the hallway to see the team off as they entered the vans for departure.

As for the team’s experience at the event, it was summarized as “fun, exciting, hectic and overwhelming” due to all the things going on and the number of people in attendance (900 teams of seven students each, along with parents).

The team had two performances. First, their hands-on “Spontaneous”, for which they were presented a problem to solve with no prior knowledge as to the nature of the challenge. It consisted of tuna cans scattered about the room and a coffee can in the middle. The team was supplied with pipe cleaners, popsicle sticks and other materials to build bridges between the cans, without touching the floor, connecting all cans to the center. The team tied for first place in their category and was very pleased with the outcome. The team was surprised at the end of their performance as they were doused with silly string, a long-held tradition.

The second performance was the execution of their skit, sharing their solution to the problem “Hide in Plain Sight.” The skit involved four scenes in which a searcher was seeking a sea creature that morphed into many forms, including an octopus with tentacles that moved via the team’s custom-made hydraulic system! Everyone on the team had a character in the play or worked the creature. The team had the audience laughing and unanimously agreed that the performance went flawlessly!

The team’s overall placing at the event was 26 out of the 58 teams in their problem category.

The most anticipated aspect of the event was pin trading. Trading Odyssey of the Mind pins (from various states and countries) is a tradition that goes back more than 35 years. During this year’s event Windham students scored pins from such far-flung places as: China, Korea, Poland, Switzerland, in addition to Canada, Georgia, Connecticut and Illinois.

There were numerous activities and forms of entertainment including a DJ, magician, a giant Jenga game, and many more.

When team-members were asked for their impression of their OOM experience, the responses included: Verrill stating, “It was better this year because we had a bigger group and more. We are older and knew more about what to expect.” Jenkins indicated, “We did better, placing higher than last year because of our experience having done this before along with the new additions to the team.” O’Shea stressed, “It was very exciting to go there for a second time as the only Windham team to have done so.” Cuthbert shared, “It was exciting and sometimes overwhelming. I knew I wanted to do OOM. I felt like I belonged in OOM and really like the creativeness vs. classroom learning.”

All in all, the team agreed they would do it again! More importantly, the team encourages others to give it a try, as Cuthbert reinforced, OOM gives you a real sense of creativity.

Coach O’Shea emphasized, “The program requires significant parental involvement. The premise is that the kids do everything themselves. However, they need guidance, and this is a way for parents to get involved with their kids in something worthwhile such as developing lifelong skills and friends. There really is something for everyone, with opportunities to build, sing, dance, write, do the technical things, etc. The program helps the kids realize what they are good at.”

One parent reinforced, “My son wasn’t interested in acting, but a place came up for him to do so and he really enjoyed it!”

The team would like to sincerely thank the school system for the support provided, including help with fundraising activities and providing resources, as well as the community of Windham for helping to fund the trip.

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