NEWTON TWP. — A team of fifth graders from Abington Heights Middle School will travel to Michigan State University May 22-26 for the Odyssey of the Mind World Finals. The team took first place in the state Odyssey of the Mind competition in which the top two teams continue to the world level.
According to its website, Odyssey of the Mind is “an international educational program whose mission is to provide creative problem-solving opportunities for students from kindergarten through college. Through solving open-ended problems, students develop creative-thinking skills that can be applied to real-life situations.”
Each team chooses one of five problems to solve, some of which are more technical in nature, while others are performance-oriented.
The Abington Heights champions selected a performance-oriented track.
“We started in September and we had five problems to choose from,” said Jackson Wickenheiser. “We are a funny group and chose ‘Opposites Distract.’”
Although he is a part of the team, Jackson does not plan to attend the world championship, because he will be at his brother’s college graduation.
In the “Opposites Distract” problem, according to the website, disagreements can distract groups from seeing the bigger picture. Teams create and present a humorous performance about a sneaky character that distracts others while trying to take control of anything the team wishes. In the performance, it will lure others into silly arguments and be successful two times. The arguments will be presented using different dramatic styles and will include attention-getting effects. In the end, the groups will learn that they have been intentionally distracted and will catch the sneaky character before it takes control.
Jackson plays the part of Spacey in the pop star band.
Molly Rooney and Finn Goldberg are also pop stars.
Zach Magnotta and Chris Begley play the part of aliens who have fun with quantum physics. They will both have birthdays while in Michigan.
“I want to win worlds and have fun,” said Magnotta.
“There are two groups who fight against each other over the silliest things,” said Julia Schuster, who plays the character Dee. V. uss. “They fight over if the end of a Q should be curly or straight or if red apples are better than green ones.”
The team had $125 to spend and had to make their own props and costumes. They learned how to use power tools. They had to write the script themselves without help from the coach. The skit had to be eight minutes long.
“I used plastic table clothes and table runners to make my Snow White costume,” said Macey Ramsey, who also is the reporter. “Since Snow White’s shoulders are big, I used baseball caps to make mine big, and I had a wig.”
The team is looking forward to meeting other students from throughout the United States and other countries including Canada, Germany, China, India, Japan, Mexico, Poland, Qatar, Russia, Singapore, South Korea and Switzerland and trading pins with them.
The middle school team will also be taking wizard hats with them.
“It will be cool to see what other teams from around the world come up with and their ideas,” said Schuster. “I want to meet the team from Portugal.”
“I want to meet the team from China,” said Begley.
Team Coach Michael Ramsey said working with the students “has been a joy.”
“It is fun to watch the minds of children create uninhibited by the adult vision of the world,” he said. “The ideas and solutions they come up with are inspiring. But most of all, this team likes to laugh and that is nice to be around.”
Cathy Wickenheiser was also a coach.
Mary Beth Adelman is the Abington Heights Odyssey of the Mind coordinator.
“In my opinion, the two most important aspects of the Odyssey of the Mind program are the creative problem solving and the no outside assistance rule,” Adelman said.
The Abington Heights Educational Improvement Organization provided financial support for the team.