Thirty-one teams from the BUSD - the largest number of any Contra Costa County school district - participated in the March 1 Regional Competition in Pleasant Hill. Of those 31 teams, six have advanced to the state level, and will compete alongside an estimated 130 teams at the state competition to be held on April 5 at Heritage High School.
For Lisa McLaughlin, an Odyssey coach at Edna Hill Middle School and the founder of the competition's local chapter, the district's occasion to participate at the state level, as well as host the prestigious event. is a great opportunity for all involved.
"Oh, it's wonderful, we're just thrilled," said McLaughlin. "It's very exciting to see how this program just keeps growing. The dedication that the students - as well as the teachers and parents - put into this is amazing."
Founded in l978 by Dr. C. Samuel Micklus, Professor Emeritus at Rowan University in New Jersey, the Odyssey of the Mind is an international educational program designed for students in kindergarten through college as a way to encourage thinking outside the box while fostering teamwork and self-confidence.
Championship teams that place at the state level advance to the world finals, where students from across the globe gather for a two-day competition. This year, the world finals will be held at the University of Maryland in May.
At the local level, students who sign up for the eight-week extra-curricular program are divided into teams of seven. Together with the help of their coaches, the participants choose one of five competitive problems to solve. The problems are crafted to appeal to a wide-range of interests, including technical, artistic and performance-oriented.
For example, one team at Edna Hill Middle School this year took on a problem entitled The Wonderful Muses. Their challenge was to create and present an original performance about how one of the nine muses from Greek mythology uses her powers to inspire others. Students wrote their own script and made their own costumes and backdrops.
According to McLaughlin, it is the air of creativity and acceptance that encourages students to do their best, while at the same time nurturing cooperation and self-esteem.
"This program taps into the creative side of kids, those who enjoy thinking outside the box," she said. "To me, it's not whether or not the students win. I always tell them that they are a winner if they make it from start to finish. That's what it's really all about."
For more information on the Odyssey of the Mind competition, contact Lisa McLaughlin at 234-0227.