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Deer Park Elementary team heading to Odyssey of the Mind world finals


The tooth fairy is a welcome visitor in many a house, a stealth-like creature of fancy that sneaks in during the middle of the night to snatch lost teeth from under pillows in exchange for the going rate.

But imagine how a lost tooth might feel about that? Could be a scary scenario to be suddenly uprooted with no idea of where you're going.

So maybe you get together with your mouth mates — send a loose molar or baby tooth out to test the waters and report back. Maybe you discover that what comes next isn't so scary after all.

That's the basic plot behind a creative and witty skit conjured by seven members of the Seeing is Believing Odyssey of the Mind Team from Deer Park Elementary School.

It's a pretty good story according to local and state judges of the annual educational competitions that promote creativity by offering a variety of problems to solve for students in kindergarten through college.

After placing second in regional and then second at the state Odyssey of the Mind competition, the Seeing is Believing team is now one of six from Pasco County schools headed to the Odyssey of the Mind 2014 World Finals, May 28-31 at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa.

It all started with an idea — or about 50 of them, according to Hannah Mayer, 11.

"We had to create a community of anything you want — but in this community, they had to be afraid of something," she said, outlining the Odyssey of the Mind Seeing is Believing problem her team started working on in September.

It was Jillian Richarz, 10, who came up with the idea of a scary tooth fairy, a role that she took on. More characters were born — Papa Wisdom Tooth (Shrey Patel, 11), Buck the Hillbilly (Ethan Westbrook, 10), Jack Plaque the Hippy Tooth, (Hannah Mayer, 11), Baby Incisor (Asia Fulks, 10), an eye tooth (Devyn Menne, 10) and a canine (Sophia Adkins, 10 ).

The kids wrote an eight-minute script, revising along the way — even these past weeks as they prepare for world finals.

"Odyssey of the Mind has a lot of ups and downs and there's always a problem to solve," Sophia said. "We always work as friends."

They created a set on wheels in the garage of co-coach Anne Marie Mayer. They made props and sewed teeth costumes out of white sheets and a tooth fairy get-up out of colorful cupcake wrappers, being resourceful in adhering to a $125 budget.

A buck-toothed donkey was made from a broken holiday reindeer decoration that they covered with brown furry material. They found the makings for their wooden set in a Dumpster and got to work fixing it up

"My favorite part was working with the power tools," said Ethan Westbrook, 10, who along with other team members got some instruction from parent Joe Mayer, on how to safely use a power saw, staple gun and drill press.

All that work paid off when winners were announced, and the Deer Park kids heard that they were moving on. They also received the coveted Ranatra Fusca award — the highest honor awarded in Odyssey of the Mind.

That's a pretty big deal.

And it's a tribute of sorts, to the late gifted teacher, Lynelle Edgemon, who was the most successful OM coach in Deer Park History. Edgemon's team won the world competition 13 years ago, the same year she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She retired but continued to coach a team her grandson belonged to, along with parent volunteer, Anne Marie Mayer. When she died on Jan. 1, 2013, her daughter, Beth Hoffmeister, who teaches science at River Ridge Middle School, stepped in to help.

"They were such a good group of kids," Hoffmeister said. "As a teacher I know how regimented the classroom can be with all the testing. It's been so fun to see them come here to let things flow and watch their creativity."

That team finished fourth at states.

This year's team, has a couple of new faces, and is now headed to world.

They, too, have a chance to win, but even if they don't, getting this far is something to be proud of.

"I think we will do pretty well," Jillian said. "But if we don't win it's just the experience that counts."

Deer Park Elementary team heading to Odyssey of the Mind world finals 05/14/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 14, 2014 7:54pm]
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