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Friday March 11, 2016 at 8:17am Age: 3 yrs
Category: Middle School


The middle school Odyssey of the Mind team has spent every day after school in the band room since November, but they are finally ready to take their show on the road. The seven-student team will compete in the regional Odyssey of the Mind tournament this Saturday, March 12, in Goshen.  Lately, the band room has bustled with last minute gluing and painting and sewing as sets, propos, costumes and dress rehearsals were brought up to competitive standards. 


“I’m a little nervous about going on stage. I’m used to it in band, but it’s different because I’m focused on the music. With this, I’ll be looking at the crowd,” said Andrew, a 6-grade student.


The middle school team chose to work through problem three of the five potential options Odyssey of the Mind provided for the competition. Under the theme, “Classics…Aesop Gone Viral,” the mindful seven have created, and will present, an original 8-minute performance about a fable gone “viral.” Not “viral” as we know it today, but as it might have in a past era. How did Aesop fables managed to go viral throughout history without the help of digital technology? What forms of communication were used over the centuries to preserve these stories? Why do they continue to have meaning today? These were some of the questions the group wrestled with as they researched and wrote their script – all without adult help, as Odyssey demands.


But there is more to the challenges of Saturday’s competition. A spontaneous portion of the contest will test students on another level of creative thinking with a new problem to be solved while the clock is ticking. But 6th-grader Rebecca is confident: “If we all do our best, everything will come together in the end.” 


Twenty-eight middle school students tried out for the seven Odyssey of the Mind spots this year by writing and acting out a short story.  All seven finalists were drawn to opportunities to solve problems through critical and creative thinking. However, the greatest challenge came both as a surprise and a hard-won lesson that they will prize into the future. 


“It can be tough to work with other people. You have to be open minded. You can’t be stuck on your own ideas. A lot of it is about working together. It improves your social skills,” said Grady, a 7-grade student. 


Andrew decided to join Odyssey of the Mind because he heard he could write, draw and create. “I’m a creative mind, so I thought this would be a good idea, but the hardest part is trying to work along with every one when you don’t know them. You learn to understand other people’s personalities. ”


“Group decisions can be challenging. You have to learn to disagree with kindness and respect other people’s ideas,” said Olivia, a 6-grade student. “And we learn life skills, like not to crack under pressure.”  

Eight-grade student Emma was pleased to discover that she can solve problems and have fun doing it. As the oldest in the group, she found herself feeling a sense of responsibility for the younger students and became conscious of her modeling role.


For Megan Shafer, a music/band teacher and the group’s coach, Odyssey of the Mind aligns well with her philosophy of teaching. “I believe in challenging students to a higher level of creative thinking by allowing them to come in to their own ideas,” Ms. Shafer said. She participated in Odyssey as a child and holds the memories close today. 


About to shine the lights on their original creation in Goshen, the students keep coming back to the bond between them. “I’ve come to like everyone. We all grew a lot,” said Rebecca.