Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Things I Learned At Odyssey of the Mind World Finals

My son's Odyssey of the Mind team made it to the World Finals, held in Michigan on the Michigan State University campus. It was a HUGE honor to get there, especially given our somewhat sketchy start.

For anyone not familiar with Odyssey of the Mind (OM), let me explain a little about the program. Children are selected for their team based upon their creativity. Once the teams (made up of between 5-7 children) are selected, they begin working on their long-term problem. They are allowed absolutely NO outside assistance. Parents, teachers, coaches, classmates cannot help them. Not even to make a suggestion. They have to create everything themselves - skit, costumes, set, props.

Our problem this year was "Food Court". Each member portrayed a piece of food. One item accused another of being unhealthy. The argument was taken to a jury who decided whether or not the accused was guilty. The skit had to be comical in nature and the jury could not be portrayed by the team members (basically, they had to create a jury out of props and find a way to make the jury signal what their verdict was without touching said jury).

They also compete in a spontaneous problem where they are given a problem and 1-2 minutes to come up with a solution (or a list of solutions) on the spot.

The team went to our regional competition with a script that was barely a week old. The parents were skeptical that we would even make it to State Finals. The kids never gave up hope. They walked out for their performance and killed it, adding new hilarious parts that none of us had seen before. Later it was announced that we had placed 3rd, making us eligible for State. We went to State and once again the kids surprised us with a really funny, well thought-out script. We worried about their spontaneous problem though, our little team hasn't always done great at those.

Later at the awards ceremony, they announced that the top 2 teams from each division would be eligible for World Finals. Imagine our surprise when we were announced as the 2nd place team. Turns out, our kids got 100 out of 100 possible points in spontaneous! Who knew! (Here's their reaction to learning that they would be going to Worlds: Kids attack!)

So after 6 weeks of frantic fundraising, we boarded a charter bus with 3 other teams from our area and took off. Destination: East Lansing, MI.

These are some observations I made along the way:

1) When the GPS keeps saying, "Turn right, turn right...recalculating...turn right, turn right...redirecting...turn right, turn right...redirecting". It might be a good idea to tap your bus driver on the shoulder and point out that perhaps the GPS lady is correct. If not, you may end up on some dark, two-lane road on the outskirts of St. Louis.

2) There is no way to get comfortable enough to get a good night's sleep on a bus...unless you're a 10 year old child with a nice plush mommy to lie upon.

3) It is impossible to have a group of people number-off when the guy designated as #1 is always missing...always.

4) People from Michigan that say it doesn't get hot there are LIARS. All of them.

5) While people of the world will go to war over the stupidest things, kids of the world will find a reason to celebrate over the tiniest things. "Hey, you're wearing a red t-shirt, so am I! Yea! Let's be friends!"

6) Dorm showers haven't gotten any better.

7) Dorm food hasn't gotten a whole lot better either and reminded me why I spent a large portion of my college years as a vegetarian.

8) Kids 'round the world love banging incessantly on pianos.

9) Cotton/poly t-shirts are hot. Literally.

10) No matter how much you can't stand a song, once you attach an awesome memory to it, you'll find your disdain for that particular song ever decreasing. Closing ceremonies and the Black Eyed Peas

11) Even 10-year-olds from Poland know the "Thriller" dance.

12) A child properly trained in the art of Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh, and Bakugan trading will be a master at World Finals pin trading.

13) Not all teenagers are sled-stealing, hit-and-run driving turds.

14) NASA is just as cool to me now as it was when I was a kid.

15) My kid thinks the same about NASA.

16) Introducing a 10-year-old boy who dreams of being a scientist to an actual scientist from NASA is like introducing an 8-year-old girl to Justin Bieber.

17) Communal living is not as fun as an adult as it was as a teenager...unless there's a communal "mommy cooler" involved.

18) You can spend 4 days of your life sweating, walking, hiking up and down stairs repeatedly, and eating healthy and come home to a scale that says you've gained 2 pounds.

19) "Inappropriate" is my new favorite word.

20) Even though a team of 9 and 10-year-olds was not declared the World Champions, they will cheer fervently for the team that was.

21) People from Hong Kong, Singapore, Korea, China, Poland, Germany, Russia, and Mexico may not know much English, but they know Flat Stanley.

22) People from Hong Kong think Michigan is hot too.

23) Once an Omer, always an Omer. My memories of competing in the "Camelot" problem in 1984 came back to me as I watched my son go through the process.

24) Don't give up. Ever. You just might find that your "little team that could" ended up in 9th place in the world. NINTH PLACE!!! WOOT!

25) Perhaps the biggest lesson I learned is that if the grown-ups of the world acted more like the kids of the world, we'd live in a much happier place filled with hot dogs, cotton candy, snow cones, flashy lighted necklaces, and airplanes that soar powered only by the fuel of imagination... and a couple of strategically placed rubber bands.

Preston and one of his new friends from Singapore

*stepping off my shoebox*