Later this month, 14 students from Regional School District 13 will travel to Michigan to compete in an international competition of Odyssey of the Mind, a creative problem-solving program.
To raise money to offset travel costs, the group is holding a fundraiser at Indian Springs Golf Club, 123 Mack Road in Middlefield, this Saturday, May 11. The community is invited to join the teams for “all you can hit” range balls and cook-out foods like hot dogs, hamburgers and veggie burgers.
“It’s super exciting … (the world championship) is going to be a chance for the kids to meet other children from all around the world, who also enjoy creative problem solving and thinking outside the box,” said one of the group’s parent coaches, Maya Liss.
The group is hoping to raise about $5,000 and is at around $3,000 now, through its Go Fund Me push. Since the club didn’t expect to qualify for the world championship, families are facing unexpected costs.
“The whole cost for the kids to go is about $9-10,000 … So if we could raise $5,000 that would be fantastic,” Liss said.
The 14 RSD13 students represent two teams, made up of kids from grade school to middle school, who are given problems to solve in creative ways.
One challenge is a “spontaneous” problem, which the students have to solve immediately. The main challenge is a long-term problem that the team has to find a solution for and then has to perform the solution through an eight-minute skit.
The long-term solution must adhere to a list of guidelines, and requires skills like building props, making costumes, writing scripts, performing in front of an audience and more.
Since late 2018, the teams have met about once a week to master their solution.
This year, the group has four teams of five to seven kids, two in the Division 1 age group, and one in each of the Division 2 and primary groups.
Co-coach John Giammatteo said the youngsters have been great at assigning roles based on strengths and ended up developing a strong sense of teamwork through the process.
“It's kids only, no adults help, so you kind of do what you want,” fifth-grader Cole Wilson said.
Liss says the teamwork aspect is great for youngsters who aren’t necessarily into sports. In fact, the whole experience can be very beneficial to children’s development, she said.
“I think it’s just the whole idea of learning how to think creatively and being really disciplined about applying creativity to all aspects of your life,” said Liss, who once participated in the program herself.
Liss said the students build confidence, independence and self-motivation through the process of failing and having to fix things on their own.