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How Did Bethesda Kids Do in Odyssey of the Mind World Contest?

A team of six students from Wood Acres Elementary School in Bethesda competed against 60 other teams of the same age group at Iowa State University.

Team from Wood Acres Elementary School with their coaches. Credit: T. Reid Lewis
Team from Wood Acres Elementary School with their coaches. Credit: T. Reid Lewis
While other kids were playing sports or hanging out with friends, a group of Bethesda elementary school students spent several Saturdays over the past two months writing a play, solving problems and making costumes.

The hard work was all part of their preparation for the 2014 World Competition of The Odyssey of the Mind.

A team of students from Wood Acres Elementary School in Bethesda competed against 60 other teams in the same age group last weekend at the event at Iowa State University in Ames, IA. The youngsters were among 830 teams -- a maximum of seven students per team -- who came together from 25 countries, including many of the U.S. states.

The Odyssey of the Mind is a program that gives students from kindergarten through college opportunities in creative problem-solving. Each team of students is given an issue that can range from building mechanical devices or creatively interpreting a literary classic. The students present their solutions at competitions at the local, state, and world levels. The Wood Acres Elementary team took home second place at the state competition, qualifying them to compete at the world level.

“They’ve been working on this problem [the one the team presented] since October,” said T. Reid Lewis, a member of the Wood Acres Elementary School PTA. “They met once a week for an hour since October. In the last two months, they’ve been meeting two or three times a week for several hours, including some all-day Saturday sessions.”

Team members of the Wood Acres Elementary School were:

  • Zoey Charlton, 4th grade
  • Luke Dodson, 3rd grade
  • Sofia Eisenberg, 2nd grade
  • Tyler Lewis, 4th grade
  • Karla Stephen, 4th grade
  • Chris Sylvester, 4th grade

The students were coached by parent volunteers Rita Stephan and Dave Charlton. Unfortunately, team member Chris Sylvester was unable to attend the world championship due to a schedule conflict.

At the world competition, the Wood Acres Elementary School team was given time to present their solution for a “long problem” where the team put together a play -- writing it and making their own costumes and set -- that depicted a society that was presented with something new and had to figure out a way to deal with it.

The second round of competition involved the students to go into a room and be given a problem on the spot that they would have to solve and present.

Overall, the Wood Acres team placed 25th out of 60 teams.

“We are pleased that the team was able to complete everything because it’s a challenge for elementary school kids to do that,” Lewis said. “At the world competition we think that they did their best presentation ever. We’re happy about that. In the bigger context, our goal is to have them continue to experience solving problems as a team, dealing with people’s differing opinions and different skills.”

Check out the video of the team’s long problem presentation.

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