By Carolyn Siccama
Since December, a group of SCS second graders has been working tediously toward one goal: to create an original Odyssey Of The Mind (OOTM) performance to solve a primary problem. The problem consists of two sea-exploring characters that encounter three different types of sea life and a humorous captain character. The sea explorers make a silly discovery that they have to keep secret. The team also needs to identify a team-created reason for the oceans waves. All of this to be done within an 8-minute time limit.
The concept of OOTM is just as much about process than about product. It is an international educational program that provides creative problem-solving opportunities for students from kindergarten through college. In solving problems, participants learn about divergent thinking, brainstorming, and working on problems to remove the mindset of functional fixedness. The team of seven “minds” works together weekly to brainstorm creative ideas toward solving the problem. As part of coaching the team about creative and out-of-the-box thinking, coaches Carolyn Siccama and Dan Erickson present one or more spontaneous problems to the group each week. Spontaneous problems require the team to be able to think on their feet. For example, the spontaneous problem this week was as follows: the team was given one cup of whipped cream, three mailing labels, two pieces of paper, two safety pins, 30 toothpicks, and two straws. They had six minutes to design and construct a structure using these materials that is more than four inches high. Once built, the team was given a plastic container to put on top of their structure. They rolled a die and based on the number rolled they would put that many M & Ms in the container. This process continued until the structure collapsed.
One of the most rewarding parts of the program is that OOTM is hands on for kids and hands off for adults. The children cannot receive any outside assistance or ideas from anyone other than the seven “minds” in the creation of their performance, props, and/or costumes, otherwise they risk being disqualified. Coach Dan Erikson remarks how rewarding it is to see this group of children learning how to work together, listen to ideas, and work as a team. Parent response has been positive. Parent Susan Moegenburg noted how much she has enjoyed watching her daughter’s creativity blossom.
With only a few weeks left until the OOTM statewide tournament the team is busily working away on their performance. The Statewide tournament will be held at CVU on Saturday, March 23 and is free and open to the public. Please visit www.vt.odysseyofthemind.org for more information.