Monday, December 11, 2017
Education

River Ridge's Odyssey of the Mind teams prepare for regionals

The dry run came with the usual foibles: lines flubbed, props tumbling and backdrops that wouldn't stay put. But, as the saying goes, "practice makes perfect."

At the very least, it helps iron out some of the kinks, maybe sharpens those troubleshooting skills and gets the kids thinking a little faster on their feet — skills that might help propel a team on to world competition.

That was the hope of River Ridge High student Alyna Palubinskas, 15, who came to a recent rehearsal for Odyssey of the Mind team members decked out in the spider costume she whipped up using a thrift shop dress, a couple of furry black boas and a black widow-type hat made from a piece of window screen and a miniature pie plate.

"We've made it to state (competition) before, but we really want to go to world this year," Alyna said as she gingerly applied silver face paint on teammate Dylan Clark, 16, for his role as a talking quarter in the 8-minute "To Be or Not to Be" skit their team had created. "Hopefully, tonight we'll see what we need to work on and work any problems out."

That was the thought behind the Odyssey of the Mind Showcase presented last week by four of the six teams set to represent River Ridge Middle/High School at regional tournament on Saturday at Charles Rushe Middle School.

"We try to do this so that friends, family members and other team members who are not able to see the performances on competition day can do so on this evening," said River Ridge's Odyssey of the Mind coordinator Darlene Mauro, a past coach and parent of two former competitors. "It also gives the teams a chance to see how ready they really are for competition."

Especially since there's likely to be stiff competition come Saturday.

Some 177 teams from 47 local schools will compete in the regional competition, said Christine Taylor, a retired elementary school gifted teacher and past coach who serves as volunteer coordinator for the regional competition.

The international problem-solving program, which is open to students in kindergarten through college, offers teams of students the opportunity to give their own spin on one of five long-term problems. Each must follow specific guidelines, whether it be in creating a balsa structure that can hold great weight or crafting an 8-minute skit.

For instance, one skit might require some sort of trapdoor on their set, or come up with a unique solution to a problem one of the characters might have or an on-stage costume change during the skit.

Velcro, it turns out, comes in handy for that.

All are given a budget ranging from $125 to $145 for materials, costumes and sets.

"We do a lot of recycling," said Zachary Dyott, 16, who was playing the role of an International Topographic Magazine for the To Be or Not to Be Team.

Thus a yoga ball, some white paint and braided red yarn become a baseball costume for team member Justin Petralia, 15. Clumps of washed Spanish moss add some authenticity to 14-year-old Sarah Moyer's dust bunny duds.

On competition day students must also work together to solve a spontaneous problem, which represents a part of their total score.

"What I like is the teamwork that goes into this," Taylor said. "Students learn to work in a group and compromise. It stretches them."

"I've been doing this for seven years and it's extraordinary," Alyna said. "It really allows you to be creative."

Her mom and team coach, Grace Swanson, agrees. "You'll never get the glitter out of the corners of your house," said Swanson, who as team coach oversees students, but is not allowed to offer any input. "It encourages independent thinking. It teaches them that there's always a way to solve a problem with the materials at hand. Everything becomes a tool for their solution."

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