Odyssey of the Mind

Since 2005, Wood Acres student teams have actively participated in Odyssey of the Mind (OotM) competitions, an international creative problem solving competition involving students from kindergarten through college. Every fall, Wood Acres Odyssey teams of 5-7 students are formed by involved parent volunteers and their motivated students. Teams work together to design a solution to one of 5 prescribed challenges and present their work at the Maryland State Competition in March and, if they qualify, for the World Finals Competition in May. And if you have ever looked at the trophy case in the lobby of the school, you’ll see that our teams have done quite well at these competitions. 

What makes Odyssey unique and a challenge to define is that it develops skills that we all use in everyday life: resiliency, teamwork, ingenuity, self-motivation and hard work. Students learn to budget money, utilize resources in creative ways, develop basic to advanced engineering and building skills, improve writing and srticistic skills and build confidence presenting to an audience. And just as in life, there are no right or wrong answers and your personal best, not perfection, is the goal. Ask any parent or student who has every competed in Odyssey and they will likely tell you that the best part is that, while parents are an integral part of the process, the final solution is 100% the work of the students on the team.

There is no limit to the number of teams from the school that can compete. Intrigued? While Odyssey is challenging to summarize in one page, here are some facts and resources to get you started.

WHO: Teams of 5 – 7 students with at least 3 (preferably more) involved parents to serve as coaches and facilitators. You can recruit anyone to be on your team. Primary teams are ages K – 2 and Division I teams are in grades 3 – 5. Competition division depends on the age of your oldest student. ANY parent can coach, no special experience or training is required, but there is plenty of national and local support. There is no limit to the number of adult resources the kids can utilize to learn skills. HOWEVER, adults may not contribute in any way to the final solution. All ideas and workmanship presented in the final solution must be solely the work of the 5 – 7 students on the team.

Team “Snap, Crackle, Pop”: 2016 Wood Acres Division I team placed FIRST at the Maryland State Competition

Team “Snap, Crackle, Pop”: 2016 Wood Acres Division I team placed FIRST at the Maryland State Competition

WHAT: Students develop a solution to a prescribed problem that they present to a panel of judges that is no longer than 8 minutes and utilizes materials totaling no more than about $140. Primary teams (K-2) have one problem, while other Division I teams (3-5) can choose to solve one of 5 problems. Click here to see a synopsis of the problem.

WHEN: While the state competition is in mid-March, your team decides the schedule and timetable in which they will develop their solution. Most teams form in the fall and typically meet for 1 – 2 hours a week until the competition in March. Teams that place 1st or 2nd for their division and problem are invited to the World Competition in Lansing, MI in late May. 

WHERE: Anywhere you like. Most teams practice at a team member’s home. 

WHY: Because it is a richly-rewarding experience for kids and parents. The more time you put in (both kids and parents), the more you get out of it (this is not your typical drop-off after school activity). 

For more information, please visit the national Odyssey of the Mind website. For local support, please feel free to contact one of the following current or former Odyssey parents who would enjoy sharing their experience and knowledge with you: Betsy Dodson or Marly Carpenter.