Creativity abounds among the students of All Saints Episcopal School’s Odyssey of the Mind team. And for that reason, a team of seven third-graders are headed to the 2012 World Finals at Iowa State University this week.
The students qualified for the competition by receiving the highest creativity award at the state competition.
Although they didn’t place in the top two, their performance wowed the judges with its outside-the-box thinking.
“They just did a great job,” Cindy Culwell, All Saints’ Odyssey of the Mind campus coordinator, said of the students. “They deserve to go on.”
The students will compete Thursday and Friday against as many as 60 teams from around the world.
The team is: Mary Esten Brown, Kevin Chen, Cameron Furr, Abigail Helbig, Gabrielle Meyer, Zachary Reed and Tanner Sundeen.
Team members use creativity to solve problems such as building mechanical devices and presenting their own interpretations of literary classics.
They bring their solutions to competition at the local, state and world level and thousands of teams from throughout the United States and 25 other countries participate in the program, according to the website.
“The part I love about Odyssey of the Mind is that it gives the students a chance to work as a team, solve complicated problems and show off their creativity,” Ms. Culwell said.
All Saints had five Odyssey of the Mind teams this year, but only three of those competed. The third-grade team is the only one that qualified for the World Finals.
The team is competing in the Weird Science category. In this category, students had to create and present a performance about a team of scientists on an expedition to uncover the cause of mysterious events, according to the program’s website.
The performance had to include a technical representation of the mysterious events, the appearance of actual travel and a team-created device that the scientists use on the expedition, according to the website.
The students could spend no more than $145 and had to do the work themselves.
The All Saints team selected a NASA photo that shows a swirling mass of greens and purples from Mauritania in western Africa.
Their explanation, which did not have to be logical, involved an alien that was stuck on another planet because she lost her UFO keys. She started crying green tears which caused the swirling green seen in the photo.
The students created a device to collect the “tears” using a bicycle horn, tubing and an empty water bottle.
“They totally write their own script,” coach Samantha Fisher said. “It was very humorous.”
In addition to their prepared performance, students also have a spontaneous portion of the competition. In this, some team members complete a verbal or hands-on problem and answer it creatively. The students have no prior knowledge of what the problem is going to be. Their performance here counts as 30 percent of their overall score.
Ms. Fisher, who has been coaching since her high-school aged daughter participated, said she has watched the students grow from kids who wouldn’t speak in front of an audience to students who will perform and stand before a judge and explain their presentation. She said they have to learn to be accountable for what they’ve done and logically explain it.
“You see them just mature, be able to talk to (an) adult, (and) resolve conflict in (a) group,” she said.
She said you see how some kids who are more outgoing take charge early on, but the shier students slowly come out of their shells and their voices are heard.
“You see … the dynamic changes in the groups and you just see them grow,” she said. “It’s just a really unique opportunity.”
In addition to Ms. Fisher, her husband and three high school students, Lauren Fisher, Lexie Rains and Kevin McKain, also helped to coach the team.