Monday, March 24, 2008

Odyssey of the Mind

This year I became aware of Odyssey of the Mind, an international program that teaches kids creative problem solving. It's all about thinking outside the box. I attended the regional tournament of my grandson who was in the first level of Odyssey.

The problem for this group of K-2 students was to create a situation where a character keeps waking up in a different time and/or place from where it fell asleep. Their explanation for waking up in different places was all about falling asleep while reading a book and the dream state that ensued, depending on the book they were reading. Their solution was someone falling asleep on a cardboard bed, the bed turning into a giant clock and the "dream people" coming to life. The longer I think about it, the better I like it.

The props, costumes and ideas have to come from the kids and not the parents. As I hovered over a 7 year old boy being forced to learn to sew in order to meet the requirements, him stretching to reach the sewing machine pedal and holding his banana "costume" taut as he sewed a yellow tube, I loved the Odyssey coaches for advancing this level of creativity and giving kids the chance to own a solution to a problem, to stretch their minds and abilities to levels they would never approach otherwise. I loved that after he sewed his yellow tube, he asked, "So, how do they make shirts?"

Regardless how his team does in the competition, he learned more than he will realize for many years. I want to applaud every child who dares to color outside the lines.

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