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Team Awesome and Ice Cream Snails take on long-term problem synopses

Edna Brewer's Odyssey of the Mind team
Edna Brewer Middle School’s Odyssey Angels

Normally I try to synthesize and rewrite the information that people send me, but I so enjoyed reading these coaches’ descriptions of the international creative problem-solving contest called Odyssey of the Mind that I thought I’d share them with you. You can also find the “long-term problem synopses” for 2012 here.

First, from Steve Trowbridge, who coached an all-girls team from Oakland’s Edna Brewer Middle School (Brewer’s only team), which is pictured above.

Problem 5: Odyssey Angels
The Angel students with their special powers took on the evil Angels and saved the day for a community of hippies. The evil Angels were trying to cut down the sacred tree.

Roger B. Moore, a Glenview Elementary School dad, gave us this summary:

This year Glenview had 49 students participating on seven different teams, four at the Division I level (Grades 3-5) and three at the primary level (Grades K-2). At last Saturday’s regional tournament, each team did an eight-minute presentation on their “long term” problem and worked on an impromptu solution to a “spontaneous” problem. The four Division 1 teams worked on different problems:

  • The “Ooh-Motional Vehicle” team created and drove a working vehicle that could respond to commands and show human emotions.
  • The “Weird Science” team presented explorers on a scientific mission explaining the cause of mysterious events shown in a NASA photograph.
  • The all-girl “To Be Or Not To Be Team” put on a Hamlet-inspired musical comedy, in which playwright Wilma Shakespeare visited the future, argued with Stevie Jobs, and uncovered secrets of her past.
  • The “Odyssey Angels” team created a play in which a traveling group turns negative situations into positive ones.

All three primary teams worked on the same “Hide and Seek” problem. They created and used a device to lift three containers from 5, 8 and 10 feet away, revealing “surprise” objects underneath.

  • Team 1 had a superhero freeing animals from a “bad zoo” and promising to get them to a good zoo.
  • Team 2 had an old detective from ancient China using giant chopsticks to reveal a dinosaur, a tiger, and the tiger’s script for the play.
  • Team 3 had a special grabbing device uncover details of things that are especially important, such as friends and family.

Odyssey of the Mind
Montclair Elementary School’s competitors

Montclair Elementary School entered four teams into the tournament. Heather Hughes reports there were 28 kids and eight coaches involved. Two of the teams were the headline-inspiring “Team Awesome,” and “Ice Cream Snails.”

One team received the Renatra Fusca award, which represents the essence of the Odyssey of the Mind. It is presented to teams or individuals who exhibit exceptional creativity, either through some aspect of their problem solution, or an extraordinary idea beyond the problem solution. This team will advance to state competition.

Joaquin Miller Elementary School had 40 kids on six teams. Karen Fee, the school’s Odyssey of the Mind coordinator, reports that least two of its teams are going to the state contest on March 31.

Oh, and in case you couldn’t tell, this here vehicle is a land canoe.

Land Canoe
photo courtesy of Karen Fee

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • Jessica Stewart

    I did OM when I was a kid! How fun to know it’s happening in Oakland.

  • Livegreen

    Thanks Katy for finally covering OM which OUSD would not. Considering OUSD sent a team to the World Finals last year, you’d think they would want to hilight, or at least be inspired by, this unique blend of knowledge and creativity.

    Isn’t this what we want in a school and school district?

  • wdcrachel

    Funny, Jessica, I was in OM when I was in elementary school as well. I was the ringer during spontaneous. We came in second in the (inter)national competition one year. Go DCPS!

  • Nextset

    We are seeing a lot of stories about the primary schools.

    What is going on in the OUSD High Schools? This is where the kiddies have their last chance to get ready for the Brave New World. And this is where the unmistakable signs of failure to prepare (if they have occurred) can be seen. When bad school districts want to cover up their failings they will push press coverage of all kinds for their primary schools – where the kids are cute and the failures can not be seen so well.

    I’m afraid stories such as this are exactly what I’m talking about.

    Katy: Are their any stories available about PSAT testing, College and Trade School preparation and applications, Field Trips, Distinguished visitor/speakers, Interscholastic academic competitions, driver’s training or such available for the OUSD or Charter High Schools?

  • livegreen

    It’s good to know a Middle School sent a team. There were other Middle Schools at the competition but mostly from Contra Costa. A few High Schools too. I think this competition would be right up OSA, Techs, O-High, etc. alley, esp. the Academy programs.

    Considering the increased # of students staying in Middle School through to HS, or skipping MS and coming back to OUSD for HS, I think it’s only a matter of time before an Oakland HS sponsors an Odyssey team.

    Remember, Odyssey is as much about the process as the competition.

  • http://www.thefrustratedteacher.com/ TFT

    Hey Nextset, would you consider a conversation with me? I find your comments fascinating, honest and brutal.

    I admit to being a blogger. Our conversation would be private, in the hopes of having a public dialog at some point. Or not. Or anonymously.

    I want to talk to you!

    thefrustratedteacher at gmail . com

  • Peach

    There have always been wonderful things happening at Oakland middle and high schools. Local professional organizations sponsor competitions in architecture and engineering with great results for Oakland students. Oakland students win county competitions as well.

    In the past, teachers have taken students to national competitions sponsored by the 100 Black Women and the National Asspociation of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers, among other activities. OUSD has a large Science Fair at Chabot each year that gets minimal coverage.

    Castlemont has a long history of state and national recognition for its choral group, the Castleleers. So do the orchestras and bands at Skyline. Dance teachers and other art teachers put on well attended annual recitals at Oakland high schools. Each year the Drama program at Skyline presents a number of stellar productions. The middle schools are also producing musical talents that get to enter competitions in high school.

    There is much more to report. It is unfortunate that one seldom sees district administration or Board members at these events, and that might explain why one seldom hears about them on the OUSD web page or in the local press. Or maybe it is a reluctance to acknowledge that teenagers of color, who may be from working families, are so accomplished.

    Katy, perhaps a survey of OUSD comprehensive and small high schools will yield a plethora of great successes by our students guided by their teachers and parents. Let’s give them a chance to shine.

  • Katy Murphy

    Thanks for that, Peach. You’re right that there are success stories and innovative programs at the high school level. I was just at Castlemont this morning, in fact, learning about a new academy (which originated at YES) for sustainable urban design. Stay tuned!

  • Livegreen

    I understand now it’s a Glenview Team that last year made it to the Regional Finals then State and National Finals. They finished top 10 or 5 or something in their group at the World Finals.

    That’s pretty darn good for anybody, no matter whether they’re from Oakland, Piedmont, Orinda or anywhere.

  • Livegreen

    I think Peach makes some good points. It’s time for both OUSD and the local press (not just Katy) to promote some of OUSD’s student accomplishments and reinforce what are reasonably attainable goals and positive attributes. Not just what isn’t being achieved or reinforcing negative steryotypes.

    For students of color and all our students. For everyone.

  • Cooper

    Interesting. Thanks, Katy.

  • Roger Moore

    Katy, thanks so much for covering OM. Livegreen, thanks for mentioning Glenview’s team. Last year our team Quixote, coached by the dynamic duo of Ana Demorest and Laura Miller, won state and finished fifth at the world tournament on the classics problem.

    This year our Weird Science team is competing in the state tournament. We had another great classics team that just missed qualifying and narrowly missed despite a great point score. But this is where OM is unlike Texas football–instead of being broken up about it, the kids are completely enthusiastic.