This third-grade group formed the “Weird Science” team and was made up of Isaac Griffin, Jakob Myrah, Garrison VanMinsel, Kennedy Bornholdt, Piper Thompson and Rhiana Bublitz. Coach Mary Deters was amazed at their first-place finish!
This third-grade group formed the “Weird Science” team and was made up of Isaac Griffin, Jakob Myrah, Garrison VanMinsel, Kennedy Bornholdt, Piper Thompson and Rhiana Bublitz. Coach Mary Deters was amazed at their first-place finish!

Learning to creatively solve problems and come up with a solution that satisfies everyone in the group is a skill that can be used throughout one's life.

Students at Spring Grove Public School worked on developing this skill as they were members of an Odyssey of the Mind team.

The organization's website,, explains that Odyssey of the Mind is "an international educational program that provides creative problem-solving opportunities for students from kindergarten through college. Team members apply their creativity to solve problems that range from building mechanical devices to presenting their own interpretation of literary classics."

This was the first year that Spring Grove School offered the Odyssey of the Mind program. They were able to do so because of a generous grant from Families For Education (F.F.E.).

Teams can have up to seven students each. Spring Grove School had 40 kids participating from kindergarten through sixth grade on seven different teams.

Teams chose from five different problem scenarios that they wanted to solve. 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 were all completely done by the students; the coaches couldn't help.

"It was challenging to the coaches to completely step back and let the students do everything when we knew sometimes it would be quicker and easier if we stepped in and helped staple part of the back-drop or simple things like that," observed Jennifer Solberg, Gifted and Talented teacher and Odyssey of the Mind coordinator.

"But we really saw the students grow and learn to compromise with their team members, learning to give and take and work together as a team."

The teams began practicing in January for about one hour a week after school. As the tournament day grew closer, they had a few more practices as they polished their final solution performances.

They had an eight-minute time limit in which to set-up and then perform.

"There is so much more that went in to their solutions that you didn't see during their performance," explained Solberg.

"One team took a couple field trips to learn more about batteries and how they worked. The whole process for all of the teams was such a great learning experience."

Teams compete at state

On Saturday, March 31 the teams traveled to Shakopee, Minn., for the State Tournament. This is only the third year that Odyssey of the Mind has held competitions in Minnesota even though the program has been in existence for over 25 years.

The students performed their solutions in front of judges. The judges talked with each team personally after they completed their solutions.

"They [the judges] did a really nice job when they talked to the kids," said Solberg. "They made the kids feel really good about themselves and what they had accomplished."

Another segment of the state tournament was a Spontaneous Challenge. A team would go in a room with a judge, and they were given a quick challenge that was either verbal, hands-on or a combination of the two.

For example a verbal challenge would be to name things that can be squeezed. Each student around the table would give an answer, without anyone being skipped.

The challenge is to come up with a creative answer. An example of a hands-on challenge would be having the students build a structure in a set amount of time out of marshmallows and toothpicks.

The students were also able to observe performances of other teams.

"It really helped the students see the other performances since this was new to us; it gave them more ideas of how solutions were accomplished and what other teams did," commented Solberg.

"We really hope to continue Odyssey of the Mind next year; the creative thinking skills and teamwork skills that the kids develop are very useful to them throughout their school careers as well as into their adult lives."

The Spring Grove Public School teams did very well at their first tournament. Primary teams (kindergarten through second grade) receive participation ribbons, but do not have the option to go on to the World Finals.

The third-grade team with the solution to the problem "Odyssey Angels" took second place.

The third-grade team with the solution to the problem "Weird Science" took first place.

The fourth/fifth-grade team with the solution to the problem "Ooh-Motional Vehicle" placed third.

The fifth/sixth-grade team with the solution to the problem "You Make the Call" placed first.

The 33rd annual Odyssey of the Mind World Finals will be held at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa, on May 23 - 26. Teams from all over the United States as well as about 25 foreign countries will participate.

Even though some of the Spring Grove teams are eligible to compete, none of them will be participating this year due to the costs involved.