They’re set to take a real odyssey — not just one of the mind.
Connerton Elementary School’s Odyssey of the Mind team is competing at the World Finals, from May 24 and through May 27 at Michigan State University in East Lansing.
It’s a major accomplishment for a relatively new team.
Team members collaborated to use creative problem-solving to tackle a predefined long-term problem, involving many months of writing, design, construction and then, a theatrical performance.
“Usually, Odyssey of the Mind teams, they’re together for four or five years, and never make it this far (to the World Finals),” Connerton co-coach Deidre Ruland said. “For them to do this well and make it this far in the first year, we’re so proud.
“It is a pretty big deal,” she added. “They use everything they learn in school towards this and it involves a lot of thinking on their feet and problem-solving, so it just shows how well they all work together.”
The Connerton team won at the state finals at the Orlando Convention Center in April, securing a trip to the exciting event in Michigan. The team also came in third at regionals, held at Thomas E. Weightman Middle School in February.
The team is made up of five third-graders and two fifth-graders. Team members are Abigail Sherburne, Alaina Marsh, Grayson Eaton, Mallory Zoller, McKinley Ruland, Noah Philpot and Riley Ruland. The coaches are Krissie Marsh, Tricia Sherburne and Ruland
“They really had to work hard, together, to figure it out,” Krissie Marsh said. “They used it as a way to find their voices, their wits, their charm and creativity and once they did figure it all out, they did so well.
“Just seeing how they came up with making everything for the skit and all the writing, it was very creative.”
The team started on their project, or skit, back in October, with the first month dedicated to team building. During that time, they came up with a theme and plot, then started working on a script. Then, they moved on to designing the props and costumes for their skit.
Their dramatic performance is set against a rocket ship backdrop, to create a place called Zlupnark’s. There, an outer space restaurant patron is continuously ignored, unable to get what she wants from the establishment.
“The team is very theatrical, especially since we have a lot of great actresses,” Sherburne said. “I think that if the boys had their way, they would have done a lot more Lego building, but all the boys are great actors, too.
“So, as a project and as a team, they use everything from math, engineering, reading and writing, and then they’ll practice and practice and make sure all the props and costumes are done, so it’s a lot of work — and a lot of it on the weekends — all year-long.”
Odyssey of the Mind competitions, and judges, are keen on teams using creative problem-solving and on recycling materials to create sets, props, costumes and anything else their skit may need.
Connerton’s team accomplished that.
The students used Doritos bags, pool noodles, milk crates and other items “nearly considered trash” to design everything they needed — constantly refining the various elements until the next competition, the coaches said.
“All the kids, they look like aliens in their costumes,” Sherburne said. “Then they had to go online and research dramatic styles — both comedy and drama — as well as research ideas on how to use recycled materials. They did all the research and then figured it out themselves before winning the (state) competition.”
The team also must be prepared to stand in front of judges to respond to situations where they’ll need to problem solve, on the fly. That section of the competition is intended to demonstrate their ability to think on their feet.
“It’s a lot of critical thinking, but they are a very creative, quick-thinking team,” Sherburne added.
That will come in handy at the World Finals, a once-in-a-life trip for the team that needed to raise nearly $15,000 to attend.
Ruland said the achievement and the opportunity are huge.
Odyssey of the Mind is “an extracurricular activity that uses a lot of academics and problem-solving, so for a small team from Land O’ Lakes to go to the World Finals, it’s very impressive.
“Especially since they never quit, figured it all out and did it on their own.”
Odyssey of the Mind World Finals
When: May 24 to May 27
Where: Michigan State University
Details: A creative problem-solving program where team members present their solution at a competition to a predefined long-term problem that takes many months to complete and involves writing, design, construction and theatrical performance. A spontaneous portion of the competition requires the team to generate solutions to a problem it has not seen before.
Info: Visit OMWorldFinals.com.
Published May 24, 2023