The Isanti Intermediate School and School For All Seasons Odyssey of the Mind team is the best in the state.
The school competed at the state tournament held April 6 at the Garlough Environmental Magnet School in West St. Paul, and held a celebration for their first-place finish after school on April 8.
Odyssey of the Mind is a nonprofit, international creative problem-solving program for students in kindergarten through college.
The philosophy behind the Odyssey of the Mind program is that creativity can be learned. Problems cover many disciplines such as classics, performance, vehicle, structure and technical. All solutions are done entirely by team members, and students learn lifelong skills such as teamwork, project management and divergent thinking.
Students learn to examine problems and identify the real challenge without limiting the possible solutions and their potential success. Odyssey of the Mind fulfills all STEM objectives by integrating science, technology, engineering design and math in every problem.
Coach Erika Zdon explained the school has had its Odyssey of the Mind program for five or six years, with 22 students chosen to be a part of the program this season.
“The projects the students did for Odyssey of the Mind they did all themselves,” Zdon said. “They came up with the ideas on their own and outside assistance wasn’t allowed. The program is really about making kids think outside the box when given a problem. The students have to come up with their own scripts, costumes, props and solutions to solve a problem. They all have to work together and it really works on their problem solving abilities.”
Zdon explained there isn’t one right answer for the problems the students have to work on.
“There are a million answers to one problem so it isn’t about coming up with one specific answer,” Zdon said. “The students earn points with creativity and are asked to think beyond the obvious answer.”
The Odyssey of the Mind teams began meeting in January and worked on their problems for three months, with the final event being held at the state tournament. Zdon said funding for the program is provided by the school’s Parent Teacher Organization.
George Wimmer, whose son Alexander is a part of the fifth-grade team, said the Odyssey of the Mind program is really beneficial for the students.
Wimmer explained the fifth-grade team was given a problem to solve of transporting nine pieces of a pet to a location using three vehicles, and the students decided on using a pet bunny (pictured bottom right). They had to create a play, design and build the cars, set and props all by hand.
“This program really gets the kids inspired,” Wimmer said. “Just from what I’ve seen from my own son and the other students as well, this really is a great experience.”
More information on Minnesota’s Odyssey of the Mind program can be found at http://mn.odysseyofthemind.org.