Another first-place winner in Division — was the sixth-grade team solving the problem, “Tumble-wood” included team members: Emily Guberud, Gabe Prahl, Rhiannon Skauge, Maria Myrah, Reese Crouch, Camron Sylling, Kailee Olerud and coach Erin Gjere (not pictured).Photos courtesy of Karen Fried
Another first-place winner in Division — was the sixth-grade team solving the problem, “Tumble-wood” included team members: Emily Guberud, Gabe Prahl, Rhiannon Skauge, Maria Myrah, Reese Crouch, Camron Sylling, Kailee Olerud and coach Erin Gjere (not pictured).

Photos courtesy of Karen Fried
Learning to identify a problem and finding a solution is a skill that can be used at all ages and stages of life. Students at Spring Grove Elementary have been working on these skills through the Odyssey of the Mind program.

The program "teaches students how to think divergently by providing open-ended problems that appeal to a wide range of interests. Students learn how to identify challenges and to think creatively to solve those problems. They are free to express their ideas and suggestions without fear of criticism," states the website,

The students work in teams to creatively solve a specific problem that could range from building mechanical devices to presenting their own interpretation of literary classics.

They then take their solutions to a competition on the local, state and world level.

This is the second year that Spring Grove Public Schools have participated in the Minnesota State competition.

"We had a successful year with double the number of students participating from last year," commented Odyssey of the Mind coordinator, Erin Gjere with a smile.

"This is my first year at Spring Grove School, and I wasn't familiar with Odyssey of the Mind, so it was a learning experience for me as well as all of the new students who joined Odyssey.

"It was great to see how well the teams all worked together at creatively solving their problems. Many of the groups even took the time to do research on things such as ancient architecture, building structures and underwater animals."

The students began working on their solutions in February. They met about once a week for about an hour. Each team was under the guidance of an adult volunteer coach who helped the team brainstorm and narrow down the solution to something that all team members could agree on.

The entire storyline, script, props, costumes and solution, however, were all completely done by the students.

As the competition neared, the teams met a few more times including a "build day" at the Ye Olde Opera House building.

"The 'build day' turned out to be a very productive day where a lot of our groups were able to paint their sets and use the stage for practice," said Gjere.

There were 80 students involved in Odyssey. There were five teams in Division 1 (grades 3 - 5), one team in Division II (grades 6 - 8) and seven Primary teams (grades k - 2).

They competed at the State Competition in West St. Paul at the Garlough Environmental Magnet School where 13 of the 28 teams competing were Spring Grove students!

"The schools competing were not divided into zones based on size," explained Gjere. "Ironically, we were the smallest school competing, but we brought the most teams!"

The other schools competing included: Garlough Environmental Magnet School, Isanti Intermediate School, Mendota Elementary School (Mendota Heights), Ramalynn Montessori Academy (Bloomington) and Somerset Heights Elementary (Mendota Heights).

Each year Odyssey of the Mind creates different problems for the teams to solve. There are five different problems for the students in Division I and Division II to choose from.

Spring Grove had at least one team in each different problem category. The Primary Division has only one question option. The Division I and II teams are judged and placed while Primary teams all receive blue participation ribbons.

Two Spring Grove teams took first place in two different categories.

The fifth-grade team solving the problem, "The Email Must Go Through" included Alex Deters, Sam Folstad, Ryan Carten, Emily Myrah, Katie Lamm, Jacine Johanningmeier and coach Tatiana Deters.

The sixth-grade team solving the problem, "Tumble-wood" included team members: Emily Guberud, Gabe Prahl, Rhiannon Skauge, Maria Myrah, Reese Crouch, Camron Sylling, Kailee Olerud and coach Erin Gjere.

Other teams placing at the state competition included the team placing second with the problem, "Pet Project." Team members were Rachel Krenzke, Piper Thompson, Caden Grinde, Isaac Griffin, Kennedy Bornholdt, Garrison VanMinsel and coach Bridget Casper.

Placing third with the "Tumble-wood" problem, included team members: Hattie Sanness, Camron Kraus, Cierra Albrecht, Carson Gerard, Brielle Neeley, Tiffany Michels, Marah Mathison and coach Karen Sanness.

Placing fourth with the "It's How You Look At It" problem, included team members: Kayden Schulte, Aidan Olson, Riahna Bublitz, Olivia Gleason, Brody Christiansen, Kelsey Bratland, Jakob Myrah and coaches Karen Folstad and Heidi Christiansen.

Placing fifth with the "Pet Project" problem, included team members: Alex Ellingson, Alan Michels, Carter Bratland, Payton Leahy, Jonah Udstuen, Reid Bjerke and coach Jim Casper.

The seven Primary teams all worked on the same problem, "Top Sea-cret Discoveries", but each had their own very unique conclusion.

The two Kindergarten teams with coach Rachel Udstuen included Team One members: Bryce Berns, Olivia Wennes, Ezra Griffin, Claire Solberg, Caleb Eiken and Ben Udstuen while Team Two included: Shawn Crouch, Nate Crouch, Jordis Neeley, Eliot Bartel, Ben Udstuen and Austin Gleason.

Robin Bartell, Angie Berns, Holly Gleason and Sammy Eiken were volunteers for these kindergarten groups.

The first-grade team with coach Jill Bjerke included: Clara Myrah, Maria Albrecht, Ethan Crouch, Josh Newgaard, Caleb Ranzenberger and Katelyn Kraus. Becky Newgaard was the volunteer for this group.

Another first-grade team with coach Angie Halverson included: Ellie Mae Halverson, Jaxon Strinmoen, Tiahna Garcia, Seveyah Bublitz, Jacob Olerud and Jensen Krosch. Jessi Strinmoen was the volunteer for this group.

The second-grade team with coaches Christine Gangle and Christy Skauge included: Alison Frydenlund, Xander Lewis, Shelby Ryan, Kenadee Gerard, Lawrence Skauge and Cole Gangle. Volunteer for this group was Hope Turner.

A combined second/third grade team with coach Phil Griffin included: Caleb Griffin, Peyton Thompson, Lydia Solum, Nathan Solberg, Addyson McHugh, Dane Edgington and Hailey Borreson. Kristi Griffin was the volunteer for this group.

Another combined second/third grade team with coach Jen Solberg included: Kyndel Dean, Ella Wennes, Maggie Lile, Haley Ellingson, Jordian Leahy, Ava Olerud and Elyse Storlie. Julianna Lile was the volunteer for this group.

With this many students involved, more volunteers were also needed the day of the competition and included: Tyler Gjere, Mona Olson, Amy Olerud, Cheryl Flatin and Kris Bjerke.

"A huge thank you to all of these people that coached teams and volunteered in other ways; we wouldn't have been able to do this without them," added Gjere appreciatively.

Also helping make Odyssey of the Mind possible was donations from F.F.E. (Families For Education) and Ye Olde Opera House.

"It was a really neat experience for me to be able to see so many of our students actively engaged in this problem-solving competition," added Gjere.

The first place teams have the option to advance to the World Competition, which will be held in Michigan State University in May.

Due to the expense of entering and traveling, Spring Grove's two first place teams will not continue to this competition.

Their website states, "The Odyssey of the Mind is truly a worldwide competition. Participants include teams from Argentina, Australia, Belarus, Canada, China, Czech Republic, DoDDS Europe, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Japan, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Mexico, Moldova, Poland, Russia, Singapore, Slovakia, South Korea, United Kingdom, Uzbekistan and practically every state in the U.S.