For many months, six third- and fourth-graders from Vilseck Elementary School worked together as a team, solving unusual problems and testing their spontaneity skills in a unique after school program called Odyssey of the Mind.

Odyssey of the Mind is an international educational program that encourages imaginative paths to problem solving for students from kindergarten through college. Team members think outside the box to solve problems that range from building mechanical devices that perform tasks like a crane to presenting their own interpretation of literary classics.

The months of hard work paid off in mere minutes as the team took the stage during the local Odyssey of the Mind competition in Hohenfels, Germany, in February, and placed first in their division.

This first place win secured a slot for the team in the world finals, held May 26-30, at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan.

The excitement of the world final caught up to the children in the week prior to the competition.
"This is the big time," said 10-year-old Mirielle Ragay. "We'll be performing in front of thousands of people, even college kids."

"It's going to be a lot tougher than the last competition," piped in third-grader Hannah Bajakian.
"But it's important that we do our best," said teammate Daniel Cole, 9. "We have a goal to reach and we can't give up."

Approximately 18,000 people from the U.S. and 25 foreign countries, including France, Beijing, South Africa, Brazil, Canada and many more participated in the world competition.

During the creative extravaganza, more than 800 teams presented original performances of preselected long-term problem synopses to a panel of judges.

At the world finals, the VES team placed 31 out of 62 teams in their division, an achievement for which they are extremely proud.

"The competition was really strong," said Odyssey of the Mind Coach Victoria Hennion, VES, who accompanied the children on the long journey. "We did well."
According to Hennion, the competition encouraged creativity, divergent thinking and time management.

"The children do it all on their own, from brainstorming to production," said Hennion. "They problem solve and work together as a team."
"It's amazing what they can accomplish," said Hennion, grinning with pride.

For the competition, the VES team chose a problem entitled "Discovered Treasures" in which students created and presented an original performance that included the portrayal of the discovery of two archaeological treasures. One portrayal was a team-created version of a discovery of an actual historical treasure, while the second portrayal was the team's depiction of a modern sculpture or structure that exists today but was discovered in the future.
The performance also included an artistic representation of the two discovered treasures and characters that are part of the discovery teams.

All props, costumes and makeup were thought up, created and presented by the six students. The students who competed and attended are Hanna Bajakian, Daniel Cole, Rachelle Cole, Andrew Dougherty, Kayla Johnson, Mirielle Ragay.

Through various competitions and creative outlets, Odyssey of the Mind continues to teach children and adolescents unique and useful skills that will benefit them for life.
When asked what the most important skill Odyssey of the Mind had taught them so far, the young crew, in unison stated, "Teamwork."

"And we know how to have fun," said Bajakian.

Page last updated Mon June 21st, 2010 at 10:30