The Division II team solving the problem The Not-So-Haunted House won first place at the Odyssey of the Mind Minnesota State Tournament. Team members included Katie Lamm, Jacine Johanningmeier, Chandler Bergrud, Alex Deters, and Samuel Folstad (not pictured). Their coach was Tatiana Deters. PHOTO: MARLENE DESCHLER/SPRING GROVE HERALD
The Division II team solving the problem The Not-So-Haunted House won first place at the Odyssey of the Mind Minnesota State Tournament. Team members included Katie Lamm, Jacine Johanningmeier, Chandler Bergrud, Alex Deters, and Samuel Folstad (not pictured). Their coach was Tatiana Deters. PHOTO: MARLENE DESCHLER/SPRING GROVE HERALD

Working together as a team to creatively solve a problem that has unlimited answers, is what the 12 Odyssey of the Mind teams from Spring Grove Public School have been working on this winter. On Saturday they presented their solutions to judges at the Odyssey of the Mind Minnesota State competition.

The Odyssey of the Mind 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 problems that the teams work together to solve are called long-term problems. They fall into five general categories - mechanical/vehicle, technical performance, classics, structure and performance. Each year these five long-term problems change. This year they were Driver's Test, The Not-So-Haunted House, It's How We Rule, The Stackable Structure, and Seeing Is Believing. These problems are for students in third grade through high school. Kindergarten through second grade teams all work on the same problem, which this year was The World's First Arts Festival.

All the teams presented their long-term solutions in front of a panel of judges as well as any onlookers that choose to be in the room. After completion of their solution, with a time limit of eight minutes, the judges talked with the team asking them a variety of questions about their presentation and talking to them about their solution.

At the competition they also have spontaneous questions that they answer with a judge. A team goes into a room with a judge and they are given a quick challenge that is either verbal, hands-on, or a combination of the two. For example a verbal challenge would be to use a word or words to make a first and last name that relate to an occupation. Each student around the table would give an answer, without anyone being skipped. An example of a hands-on challenge would be to build a structure using pasta that would be scored on height and weight. The challenge is to come up with a creative answer or solution.

Jackie Parker, the Gifted and Talented teacher at Spring Grove Public School, was the local coordinator of Odyssey of the Mind. "I was not involved in the Odyssey of the Mind program at the schools in Texas that I worked at, so this has been a new experience for me. I have loved seeing the kids being creative! It is great to see them work with other students - the teamwork is great!"

Sixty-nine Spring Grove Public School students participated in Odyssey on 12 different teams this year. Kindergarten students participating included Ellevia Berns, Ayden Collins, Kylie Hammel, Carley Lewis, Madison Lile, Tyson Moen, Kendal Sullivan, Carter Van Minsel, and Olivia Wedmann. First grade students were: Eliot Bartel, Bryce Berns, Nathan Crouch, Shawn Crouch, Trevor Donlan, Caleb Eiken, Austin Gleason, Kaitlyn Klug, Asher Liptack, Grace Torgerson, Ben Udstuen, Garrett Waldenberger, and Olivia Wennes. Second grade students participating were: Maria Albrecht, Ethan Crouch, Tiahna Garcia, Ellie Halverson, Katelyn Kraus, Jensen Krosch, Clara Myrah, Isaac Nerstad, Joshua Newgaard, Jacob Olerud, and Caleb Ranzenberger.

Third grade students participating were: Ty Cleven, Kyndel Dean, Haley Ellingson, Alison Frydenlund, Kenadee Gerard, Hunter Holland, Xander Lewis, Maggie Lile, Shelby Ryan, Lawrence Skauge, Lydia Solum, Joseph Sullivan, Peyton Thompson, and Ella Wennes. Fourth grade participants were: Cierra Blaskowski, Hailey Borreson, Carson Gerard, Julia Halverson, Camron Kraus, Ava Olerud, and Elyse Storlie. Fifth grade participants were: Brody Christiansen, Cayden Cody, Olivia Gleason, Tristan Hammel, Aidan Olson, and Mitchell Reynolds. Sixth grade students participating were: Chandler Bergrud, Michael Blackburn, Addison Deschler, Alex Deters, Samuel Folstad, Jacine Johanningmeier, Katie Lamm, Wyatt Murphy, and Emily Myrah.

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. However, the entire storyline, script, props, costumes, and solution were all completely done by the students without adult help. The volunteer coaches that spent many hours with their team were: Angie Berns, Jill Bjerke, Tatiana Deters, Nancy Gulbranson, Angie Halverson, Len Liptack, Aimee Murphy, Jackie Parker, Christy Skauge, Patty Storlie, Rachel Udstuen, and Heidi Waldenberger.

Parent volunteers were also needed for competition day assisting the coaches as well as helping out with different tasks during the tournament including helping in the cafeteria and returning judges scores. Volunteers that accompanied the students and coaches to the state competition were: Nicholas Bjerke, Marlene Deschler, Jeremy Halverson, Julianna Lile, Anastassia Novikova, Amy Olerud, Mona Olson, Deb Sullivan, Val Torgerson, Ken Waldenberger, Jen Wedmann, and Shari Wennes.

"The Odyssey of the Mind Minnesota state tournament was an exciting event," commented Parker. "Our students did a great job! They had a lot more competition this year because the number of competitors grew by 50 percent from last year. Our teams' creativity really showed on Saturday and they deserve a pat on the back for what they accomplished.  I'd like to thank all of the coaches for the time they spent with their teams; we couldn't have done it without them! Also, thanks to the parents and volunteers for all you did to support Odyssey of the Mind."

The Odyssey of the Mind State Minnesota State Tournament was held Saturday, March 8 at Garlough Environmental Magnet School in West St. Paul. Spring Grove students, coaches, and volunteers left the school at 7 a.m. and returned at 8:15 p.m. This was the largest tournament in the Minnesota Odyssey of the Mind program history. There were 41 teams present with Spring Grove representing 12 of those teams. Other schools with teams included Garlough Environmental Magnet School, Isanti Intermediate School, Mendota Elementary School, Moreland Elementary School, Morris Area Elementary School, Plymouth Parks and Recreation, Ramalynn Montessori Academy, and Somerset Elementary School.

Two of Spring Grove's teams placed first. The Division II team in The Not-So-Haunted House category with team members Chandler Bergrud, Alex Deters, Samuel Folstad, Jacine Johanningmeier, Katie Lamm, and coach Tatiana Deters. The Division II team in The Stackable Structure with team members Michael Blackburn, Addison Deschler, Wyatt Murphy, Emily Myrah, and coach Aimee Murphy.