catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 48, Num 1 :: 2008.10.01 — 2008.12.15


Developing creativity with Odyssey of the Mind

If someone asked me to explain Odys-sey of the Mind with one sentence, I wouldsay that it is a creative problem-solvingcompetition for seven-student teams, whoperform an original skit in eight minutesand are scored on the quality of the skitand its “style” and on how well they solvea “spontaneous” problem on the spot. Butfor Holland Christian School and otherChristian schools, it’s much more.

Holland Christian’s tryouts for OM hap-pen in late fall. Seven-member teams arechosen via short interviews designed to seekout creative students, those who look atthings from a different perspective or haveartistic and performance gifts. Teams thendecide which one of five “long-term prob-lems” they would like to “solve” as theywrite their skit. Some of the problems in-volve technical challenges that requiremaking vehicles or balsa wood structures,but Holland Christian teams typicallychoose problems requiring references toclassic literature or art and involving hu-mor. Coaches meet with their teamsweekly and encourage team members toinvestigate many possibilities as they de-velop their skits.

OM is successful for so many reasons.The team must work within a budget andlearn to manage their money by being goodstewards. They discover uses for discardedobjects, which most people would considerjunk. The teams learn cooperation with andrespect for each other and through that theparticipants gain self-confidence. Sincethere is no one right answer, everyone’sideas can be investigated. They see thatthere is more than one way to solve a prob-lem and the process is as important as theend result. Above all, students are encour-aged to use their gifts to honor God andhis creation.

Teams compete at a regional competi-tion, and the regional winners compete atthe state competition. State winners com-pete at the “World Finals” during Memo-rial Day weekend at a college or univer-sity.

My son has participated in OM for thepast five years and has even had the oppor-tunity to “walk the stage” at World Finalsone year. When I asked him what was thebest thing about OM he quickly replied,“Community.” I have watched a shy fourthgrader evolve into an affirmed team player.Credit must be given to wonderful coacheshe’s had along the way. Coaches are par-ents who volunteer their time performingthe difficult task of supporting the kidswithout input. That’s right. OM is for kidsonly – adults may not help solve the prob-lem! However, they pray with their teams,encourage each child’s gift, celebrate eachchild’s individuality, are occasional peace-makers, and just love watching kids usetheir uniqueness to bring glory to our Maker.

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