"Odyssey of the Mind never ends. The friends and skills you develop during competitions will be remembered for the rest of your life. " -Brandon McNerlin,
KY OotM Participant
Odyssey of the Mind is a creative problem solving program for kids K-College in which teams choose one of 5 competitive problems. Primary students may also participate in a non-competitive problem. In the process of solving their problem, children learn to think outside the box, work together to develop creative solutions to broadly defined problems, and present their solution in an 8-minute performance. In addition, teams are rewarded not only for solving the problem, but also for enhancing their solution with style. Teams also compete in an on-the-spot spontaneous problem as part of the competition.
Odyssey of the Mind teaches students to learn creative problem-solving methods while having fun in the process. For more than twenty-five years, this unique program has helped teachers generate excitement in their students. By tapping into creativity and encouraging imaginative paths to problem-solving, students learn skills that will provide them with the ability to solve problems -- great and small -- for a lifetime. Odyssey of the Mind teaches students how to think divergently by providing open-ended problems that appeal to a wide range of interests. Students learn how to identify challenges and to think creatively to solve those problems. They are free to express their ideas and suggestions without fear of criticism. The creative problem-solving process rewards thinking not just outside of the box but "beyond the box." While conventional thinking has an important place in a well-rounded education, students need to learn how to think creatively and productively.
The problems are designed for competition, with scoring components and limitations, or rules to be followed. The long-term problems change every year. They fall into five general categories. These are mechanical/vehicle, technical performance, classics, structure and performance.
Teams make innovative contraptions and incorporate artistic elements into their solutions. They might be asked to write an original musical score to play on a “new” type of instrument, or to build a robot with human characteristics, or to perform tasks using a chain reaction of snapping mousetraps.
Teams design and build structures, using only balsa wood and glue. They test them by supporting and holding as much weight as possible — sometimes more than a thousand pounds! Teams usually present a skit as part of the Style presentation.
Teams design, build and operate vehicles of various size and with various power sources. Sometimes they drive the vehicles, and sometimes the vehicles perform tasks, such as overcoming obstacles or visiting other “countries” to retrieve artifacts.
The theme of this problem is based on the classical — from literature to architecture to art. Whether it’s writing an additional chapter to Moby Dick or bringing paintings to life, it’s always a terrific learning experience.
In this problem, teams present performances that revolve around a specific theme and incorporate required elements. Past themes include “morphing” objects, animals that express human emotions, and originating folktales.
Learn more about this year’s fun problems to challenge kids creative thinking skills -
Photos courtesy of Samual Oldenburg, The Center for Gifted Studies of Western Kentucky University