Education

Letting the pictures tell the story

April 07, 2016 by Cindy O'Dell

What is a day at the state Odyssey of the Mind tournament like? We decided to follow a team through most of the day. They’re an experienced crew, most of whom have been together for three years after being randomly thrown together the first year. This is their first year in Division II for grades 6-8. Originally an elementary school team, they’re now sponsored by the San Elijo Hills Foundation in San Marcos, California. (Read about Brandman volunteers here.)

It’s 8 a.m. Do you know where your team is?

Coach Ted Yun gives a quick pep talk to his Division II team before they head off for the “spontaneous” challenge. No coaches, parents (or photographers) are allowed to watch to keep the variables the same for every team. The team will be given five to 10 minutes to solve a problem, which each team member will answer on her own. They’ll be rated on their creativity. If, for example, they’re asked to name something round, and someone answers “plate,” that would be a common answer. Less common would be the lenses in Harry Potter’s glasses. More creative still would be “playground” which incorporates the word round. Teams are sworn to secrecy.

San Elijo coach and team

Ready to compete

To pump themselves up for the spontaneous challenge, the San Elijo Hills Foundation team strikes a modified yoga pose they call “tree rex” (combining tree pose with tyrannosaurus rex) while waiting to enter the room.

Tree-Rex

Never a dull moment

The girls celebrate what they think was a good set of responses by running up a set of steps and striking a pose. Their siblings join in and beg Yun to take a picture. He obliges.

Coach takes photo

On a quest

It will be four hours before the team faces the long-term challenge. Their coaches hope they’ll spend some time rehearsing. They’re more interested in racing around the campus in search of pins from other regions to exchange. Coach Ella Negrou and Sonja Brion (and a few siblings) help them sort the ones they’ll exchange. Not pictured is the team’s third coach, Lisa Rodgers.

Distributing pins

Their quest is a success.

Pin collection

Showtime

Now it’s time for their long-term challenge. They’re competing in the performance challenge “Fins, Furs, Feathers & Friends.” They need to create a performance piece that has three animals (fish, mammal and bird) working to save the world. “So the kids had to think of how the world is threatened and what they had to do to save it. Their initial idea was to do some sort of environmental threat. But this is their third year of Odyssey. They knew they had to dig deeper for ideas that are unusual and creative,” said Yun.

San Elijo Hills team on stage

Once their challenge is over (this one is open to the parents, coaches and even other teams), judges quiz the girls.

Talking to the judges

Parents are participants, too

Parental involvement is key. They serve as volunteers by judging other divisions and challenges, working at the quilt raffle table or badge stands, as coaches and as haulers of sets. They’re also sometimes look like paparazzi.

Parent papparazzi

It’s all about creativity … and fun

When it’s over, they take a minute for pictures. For Yun, the performance was “seven minutes of terror.” For the girls: “It was fantastic.” “There’s never a moment when we’re not having fun.” They’re also rarely this still. From left: Twins Morgan and Marisa; Elisenne; twins Maya and Katja; and Ella.

On to worlds

On to Worlds

Their hard work paid off. The team, one of the youngest in their division, tied for first place and advances to the world competition at Iowa State University in May. They’ll spend the next month raising money to pay for shipping their props, flights, hotels and dorm fees in order to compete.

“The kids experience everything from brainstorming, design, development, presentation, and execution. They learn how to propose, critique, defend their ideas, and compromise when necessary,” said Yun. “But I think the most important part of this experience is the bond that has been built between the kids.”

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