Wow, it's been a long time since my last post. No, I haven't been sick. Not having technical difficulties. Not going through any kind of rough time.
The reason for my delay is . . . I've been coaching an Odyssey of the Mind team. And anyone who's ever coached one will know what kind of wonderful, exciting, stressful, all-consuming task that is. At least at tournament time.
So what is Odyssey? I'm certain I can't explain it any better than this overview from their website:
Odyssey of the Mind is an international educational program that provides creative problem-solving opportunities for teams of students from kindergarten through college. Team members apply their creativity to solve problems that range from building mechanical devices to presenting their own interpretation of literary classics. They then bring their solutions to competition on the local, state, and World level. Thousands of teams from throughout the U.S. and from about 25 other countries participate in the program.
Millions of students from kindergarten through college have participated in the Odyssey of the Mind. Each year, five new competitive problems are presented for the teams to solve. These long-term problems are solved over weeks and months. Some of the problems are more technical in nature, while others are artistic or performance based. The teams are invited to participate in competition and present their solution with other teams. At the competition, the teams are given an on-the-spot "spontaneous" problem to solve. The combination of long-term problem-solving and spontaneous problem-solving produces a confident, able student.
Last fall, this sounded like a whole lot of fun - but I really had no idea what it entailed. A few of us worked to scrape together the minimum of 5 students required to form a team - and to our surprise ended up with a team of 8!
Our kids all fell into the K-2 age group, which put us in the Primary division - a great way to introduce kids to Odyssey concepts in a non-competitive environment. Their long-term problem, entitled Surprise Party, was to throw a surprise party for a team-created character for an occasion that usually isn't celebrated. Required elements included three gifts related to the reason for the party and an original noisemaker. The end result was to be a humorous, eight-minute skit to be presented at the tournament.
The kicker? Every single detail - from ideas to dialogue, props to costumes - had to come from the kids. No input or help from parents, coaches, siblings or friends is allowed.
The end result? The cutest little play you've ever seen about some friendly mice in the Seminole Gander Library throwing a party for their friend Squeaky (and his detachable, mischievous tail) who just learned how to read by himself.
The kids were amazing, especially given the tight timeframe we were working under given our late start and steep learning curve. Towards the end, they really learned to work as a team, and I can't wait to see what they do next year given even more time to discover each member's talents and creativity.
The tournament was last weekend, and I'm still resting up. Noah, on the other hand, has already scripted another play and created all the props. My biggest challenge now is breaking the news to Ava that she still has another year until she can join the team. She can recite the skit word for word and is still asking for her own set of mouse ears!