No brain freeze for these kids

March 07, 1998|By RICHARD F. BELISLE

No brain freeze for these kids

Teachers, laudatory in their assessments, say students who participate in Odyssey of the Mind exercises learn to solve problems with creative thinking and to work together with others as a team.

Bester Elementary School fifth-grader Brittany Nails takes a more basic approach.

"We all do it to have fun, " she said.

Nails and six schoolmates made up one of two Bester Elementary teams that competed with 36 other elementary, middle and high school teams Saturday in the Western Maryland Regional Odyssey of the Mind Tournament.

The competition was split between stages and gymnasiums at E. Russell Hicks Middle and South Hagerstown High schools, said Georgiana Keller, a teacher at Bester Elementary and event coordinator.


When the competition ended Saturday, 19 of the 37 teams won enough points to move onto the state tournament next month at the University of Maryland, Baltimore campus. The world finals will be in May at Disney World, Keller said.

Nails' teammates were confident their skit, centered on a commercial for nutritional pudding, will take them to Florida.

The teams chose from among five categories, each with a problem to be solved.

The students write the script, choreograph the stage moves and design props and sets with materials that can't cost more than $100. The props must fit into specified limited space. It took imagination to convert small components into workable stage sets.

Presentations had to be completed in eight minutes before a bank of judges.

The category drawing the most teams, 14, was "Marvelous Mentor." It required students to create a humorous sketch about an advertising agency commissioned to make a television commercial about a nutritional product.

The performance had to include the commercial, original music, team-created packaging for the product and a discussion on the product's nutritional benefits.

The team could include a historic or modern figure in its cast - from actors to scientists, artists to statesmen and authors.

The Bester kids chose Louis Pasteur because, said teammate Joanna Monhollen, "Pasteur pasteurized milk and milk goes into pudding."

Evan Stotlemyer said the team chose pudding because it's easy to name a product after.

"We worked together, brain stormed together and came up with our own script," he said.

A team from teacher Vicki Linn's fifth grade class at Beall Elementary School in Frostburg chose the "Camouflaged Creations" category for its problem.

The rules require the team to build a structure from balsa wood and glue that can be stained or painted but can't weigh more than 15 grams. It must be camouflaged as part of the larger creation and has to be removed at some point during the presentation.

The balsa wood structure, usually a tower of some sort, is then placed under a wooden device and iron weights added until it collapses.

"We picked it because it looked like it was the easiest," said Jessica Palumbo.

The students wrote a script about a trip to the attic to find costumes in racks of old clothes to be used in a school play they were producing.

"We didn't have a name for the play. We just made that up," said Sarah Murphy.

The team members painted their tower black and white and hid it in newspapers, said Paul Sagal.

"After we painted it we had to keep taking pieces off of it to keep the weight down," he said.

That weakened the structure some, but it held 105 pounds of iron before it collapsed, much to the delight and surprise of the team members, but it was still a far cry from the 635 pounds held up by the tower built by the Urbana High School team.

The students had trouble reading the lengthy and involved instructions.

"Mrs. Linn had to help us with that. It had some pretty big words in it," said Sabrina Welch.

This is the 16th year the competition has been in Maryland and the 14th year Washington County has participated. Keller said teams from Washington County have gone to the world finals in previous years.

The competition is open to all students.

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