A group of Mount Airy Middle School students learned about the importance of teamwork and how to handle themselves under pressure thanks to a new club at the school.
Seven students from the school participated in the state Odyssey of the Mind competition last weekend after months of rehearsals and preparations. As a reward for their hard work, they placed second which qualifies them for a trip to the world competition in May at Michigan State University.
Odyssey of the Mind requires students to learn creative problem-solving methods in order to complete the tasks set forth in the competition. They have to plan and execute an eight-minute skit complete with props in front of a panel of judges as well as participate in a spontaneous activity for which they cannot prepare.
“It’s very nerve-wracking. You have to be dedicated. You’ve got to be willing to go the extra mile,” said Sam Brown.
“The experience so far has been really great. I got to fill in for a missing team member,” said Lexi Payne. “It’s been awesome working with everybody.”
“It’s a good experience for all of us. To begin with, worlds was just a far away dream. Now that we’ve made it, it’s kind of hard to absorb,” said Rachel Cave.
The group chose to take on the Nature Trail’R skit for which they had to build a human-powered vehicle and a trailer that would undergo an appearance change. They then had to create a skit revolving around a trip down a nature trail that included four circumstances they had to overcome. The characters had to encounter an animal, in this team’s case it was a wolverine doing sign language, overcome an obstacle, in this case a snow drift, fix a vehicle breakdown and make an environmental improvement.
The team chose to set their skit in Alaska on a nature trail that was being polluted with souvenirs and billboards by a businessman looking to make money. With the help of Mark, a film director, and Natalie, a performer of musical theater, Willow, the tour guide, and Father Nature were able to right the wrongs on the nature trail and restore it to its natural beauty.
The students started the process in November of creating the skit and building their set. However, they were making changes up until the morning of the state competition and plan on making changes before the world competition as well. The fact that they had to be willing to make changes proved to be a challenge they had to overcome in order to make their skit better.
“We all wanted to get everything done the first time, but with this you can’t do that,” said Brown.
“It’s just trial and error,” said Souli Boutis. “We change things all the time.”
“Simple is the key. That’s something you learn with this,” said Emily Lowe.
They also had to work through issues at the competition itself. They had one prop break as they were heading out for the competition and had to improvise to come up with a solution.
For the spontaneous competition, the team was given a problem to solve in eight minutes. The problem can be verbal or hands-on. An example of a spontaneous task is to build a structure from marshmallows, bendy straws and toothpicks that will hold 100 pennies.
“There’s no way of preparing,” said Lowe. “We’re all good at the hands-on part, though.”
“We do improv exercises to warm up a lot,” said Jack McCluskey, which helped them with the spontaneous portion.
There was a price limit on how much teams could spend to create their sets for the skits meaning the students had to be creative in coming up with the necessary items. They admitted to using a great deal of duct tape, spray paint and hot glue to make the props they needed.
“One of the best things is finding new uses for things. A lot of our stuff was recyclables,” said Cave.
Blake Hensley also is on the team but was unable to make the trip to the state competition. The sponsors for the team are Annette Lowe, parent of one of the team members, and Beth Moore, language arts teacher at the school.
The students will travel to Michigan State for the 31st world finals May 26-29.
Contact Morgan Wall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 719-1929.