Odyssey of the Mind teams compete

VIENNA – Odyssey of the Mind has taught students creative problem-solving methods for more than 25 years.

This program promotes imaginative paths to solve problems and encourages children to become divergent thinkers.

Vienna Elementary School had a third- and fourth-grade team participate in World Finals May 22-25 at Michigan State University. Students in each group had to learn to work together as a team and make compromises to solve problems.

Each year, five new competitive problems are presented for teams to choose and solve. These long-term problems took months for each of Vienna’s teams to solve and each team was encouraged to continue to enhance the solution every time they practiced, according to a press release.

At World Finals each team was given an “on-the-spot” spontaneous problem to solve. The teams had to work together to solve the problem in a matter of minutes then be scored, which was part of their overall score at the World Competition.

Vienna Elementary’s two Division I teams represented West Virginia very well in the competition. The third-grade team chose to solve the problem “ARTchitecture The Musical”. Some of the many requirements for their solution were that they chose a piece of architecture from 1000-1600 AD and build an accurate replica, write a play that included a journey, make three original works of art, create two choreographed dances, and compose two pieces of music.

This was all written and performed by a team of 9-year-olds. Their play included clever wordplay and dialog with the overall message that, “You should always do your best.”

They were one of the youngest competitors in Division I (third-to-fifth-grade teams) and placed 29th out of 65 teams. They competed against nine international teams, including Switzerland, Hong Kong, Singapore, Mexico and Canada. The team was coached by Janet Duncan and Kelli Marteney.

Vienna’s fourth-grade team chose the problem “It’s How You Look at It”. This team was coached by John and Krista Pierson. The group had a humorous presentation and placed 13th out of 51 teams, which also included several international teams.

Throughout the performance, the group made it clear that being odd is OK and diversity is a great thing for all mankind, the press release states.

Coach John Pierson said, “In West Virginia we don’t have a lot of teams to compete against, so we really had no idea how we would do at Worlds. A lot of the teams had to win at districts, regionals, sectionals, and states to go to Worlds.

“They had a lot of competition to get to that level and received feedback from several judges regarding how to improve their solution. We were thrilled to place as well as we did and our kids had a fantastic time meeting kids from all over the world. I hope Odyssey of the Mind can grow in West Virginia, because it is a wonderful learning experience for kids. It encourages students to work together, make compromises, and take some risks when necessary.”

Krista Pierson, coach, said, “OM is a ton of work; however, each of our team members really seemed to grow creatively, not be afraid to think outside the box, and become team players. The hardest thing with being a coach was to stand back and have the kids solve the problem.”