By Sue Moore
Children at Indian Lake Elementary school have been invited to participate in the Odyssey of the Mind program as an after-school activity. It challenges kids to think more creatively while problem solving with a small group of classmates. After months of study and practice, they will enter a competition with students from other schools in February.
It’s a parent-led project that Sonya Sutherland invited other parents to take part in with the blessing of Principal Ruth Hook. “It was part of my elementary school in Whitehall but I was never picked. It’s a national and international contest. Now that my family lives in the Vicksburg school district, I wondered how to start an Odyssey of the Mind here,” Sutherland said.
She ended up with three teams of six or seven students, two coaches for each team and Callie Baker, the 5th grade science teacher at Indian Lake, participating. “It is empowering to the kids,” Sutherland said. “They have to figure out how to make a decision with each other on a short- and long-term problem that the Odyssey of the Mind curriculum creates. It can be a little scary for kids to think outside of the box, as is required. The weirder the better as far as the judging is concerned.”
Kids have to do their own research, write a skit, build a set and have eight minutes to perform a play they have written that answers the problem posed by Odyssey. They get criteria points [that are three pages long] from the judges. All of this takes plenty of practice and commitment while learning how to work together, including students with special needs.
Max Armstrong, a 5th grader, said he decided to participate in the Odyssey instead of watching TV at home. The only girl in Sutherland’s group, Amaia Uribe, a 4th grader, said her mom made her volunteer but now it’s a lot of fun. The other four boys agreed.
“The whole idea to is push kids and make them think,” Sutherland said. “They are also given a spontaneous problem to solve in ten minutes as a team. It’s all about creativity, problem solving and life-long learning skills. They engage in a real-world application in a caring and positive environment.”