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Imaginative students take an Odyssey of the Mind

March 06, 1999|By DAVE McMILLION

BOONSBORO - Their task was to have a business transaction, but it could have passed for any number of things: science, sorcery or theatre.

The Western Heights Middle School students were told to present a sales transaction as part of the "CustOMer Service" competition in 1999 Western Maryland Regional Odyssey of the Mind competition, an academic contest designed to sharpen thinking skills among students.

Chris Grove, Brandon Hornbarger, Ariel Kifer, Sara Padula and Johnna Wampole started their skit with the unveiling of a "Shampoo and Stuff" shop.

Part of their task was to show a transaction between customers and store workers, but one customer had to be memorable.

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Their imagination was really flowing.

In walked a witch, looking for a special shampoo to make a potion.

She made her potion on the spot - tossing the shampoo, a bag of this, a bit of that - into a cauldron on the stage.

Unique maybe, but it's a sign their mind is being stretched, said Barbara Evans, judge in the competition. Competitions like Odyssey of the Mind introduce kids to new paths of thinking, which often correlates into better grades in regular subject areas, said Evans.

"I'm really impressed in that they did it on their own," said Western Heights teacher Jessie Frushour. Frushour was the coach for the Western Heights team, but she said all she had to do was read the contest instructions to her 11- and 12-year-old students, and they took it from there.

Sixty-six problem-solving teams from Washington, Frederick, Allegany, Garrett and Carroll county schools competed in the Western Maryland Regional competition. Winners from the contest, held at the Boonsboro Educational Complex, will go to the state competition April 24 at the University of Maryland Baltimore County in Catonsville, Md.

Students from elementary level to high school competed in three divisions.

Students earn points in three categories: long-term problem solutions, style and spontaneous problem.

In spontaneous problem, a judge walks into a room and presents the students with a problem they have never heard before, and asks them to respond immediately.

But it's hard to trick the Western Heights crew.

The judge quickly asked the kids what would they say if their mother walked into a room and caught them with their hand in the cookie jar.

"It was easy. I said I wanted to make sure they were still good," said Wampole, still dressed in her black witch outfit.

Chris Grove told the judge the cookies were escaping and he had to keep them inside the jar.

There were a number of problem-solving situations students had to face, including budgeting concepts, incorporating Shakespearean lines into original plays and delving into Earth species survival.

-- Odyssey of the Mind winners list

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