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Odyssey ends with trip to World Finals

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3 Shelby County teams will compete in international creativity competition

By Todd Martin

It’s not every day you hear the question, “Does Jonathan have garbage bag pants?” that pointing and laughing or at least some giggling does not follow it.

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But that question came up at Odyssey of the Mind practices at two different schools recently.

Next week, three teams from Shelby County schools – a high school team from Collins, a middle school team from West and an elementary school team from Clear Creek – will take their acts – and their garbage bag pants – on the road to East Lansing, Mich., where they’ll compete in the Odyssey of the Mind World Finals on the campus of Michigan State University.

“This matches our largest group to attend the World Finals,” said Terry Walther, the talented and gifted teacher for East and West middle schools and the head of the Odyssey of the Mind program in the district.

For more than 25 years, Odyssey of the Mind has helped students express their creativity through problem-solving methods.

Schools or communities put together teams consisting of up to seven members, and teams choose from five long-term problems that change each year. For the long-term problem, a team must devise an original performance that meets the criteria of the problem, and bonuses are added for creativity.

For instance, two teams, the Clear Creek and West teams, are competing in It’s How You Look at It, which requires a meter that indicates a degree of odd or normal behavior and scenes that highlight both.

“We’re putting two characters together that don’t normally go together,” Emma Lanter said. “Vikings win a trip to chef’s cooking show, and they have to travel on a boat across the ocean to attend it.”

Added Leslie Overstreet: “The Vikings are really messy, and the chef thinks that’s weird, but then she figures out that you can make delicious food, and you don’t have to be clean to make it.”

At Clear Creek, this is the school’s first team to advance to the finals, and the team’s skit includes an upside down man named Backwards Bill, a bully named Cruncher and Enormous Ears Evan.

Bill ends up joining the circus, where he now fits in, and Evan makes the wrestling team.

“We thought of the school and then odd behaviors and how they could all fit in,” Mary Malone said.

And all the members of the group say they are excited for their first trip.

“I’m excited for all the activities, and you get to interact with people from other countries,” Ben Judd said. “Our buddy team is from South Korea.”

The Collins team, which is making its third trip to the Worlds Finals, is competing in ARTchitecture: The Musical, which requires teams to create an original performance that includes a replica of a structure that was built between 1000 AD and 1600 AD. It must also have three works of art that disappear and are found by the characters. They are also required to incorporate two songs with some type of choreographed movement.

This year the team’s goal is top 10, and its Westminster Abby/Adam West Batman and Robin skit might be good enough to earn a spot.

“We have a fight dance where the Riddler and Catwoman fight Batman and Robin,” said Ryan Ruff, who plays a West-like Batman.

Along with the long-term problems, teams also have to compete in short-term, spontaneous problems in which they have just a few minutes to think and solve the problems. The questions can be verbal or can require mechanical skills.

The Clear Creek team finished first at the regional and state competitions in the short-term, spontaneous problems.

A question might be to make a rhyme using a name or species of an animal, like “mice are nice” or “there’s a cat in the hat.” The more creative and more names you can link together the better the score.

The teams will embark on their odyssey Wednesday, which is also the last day of school for students.

The teams will stay on campus at Michigan State and get to mingle and meet teams from several countries before the competition ends the following Sunday.