By Mary Heyl
On Saturday, April 2, Ellicottville Central School (ECS) sent four teams to compete in the Odyssey of the Mind State Competition at SUNY Binghamton. Odyssey of the Mind is an international educational program for teams of elementary through college students to solve problems using creative thinking, brainstorming, teamwork, and problem solving skills. The program is designed to teach the concept that “a group is a more powerful thinking force than an individual.”
First grade teacher Colleen Bower is the school’s Odyssey coordinator; Bower guided her teams through a successful regional competition at Allegany-Limestone Central School on March 12. Four of the five teams advanced from the regional competition to the state competition, marking another successful season for ECS students.
At the regional competition, members of Coach JoAnn Kurtis’ Division II (grades 6-8) team took first place in the “No-Cycle Recycle” Problem. In this scenario, students considered the environmental impact of recycling by building, riding, and driving a recycling vehicle that moves without pedals and deposits recyclables to places to be re-used. Team members Lucas Adams, Isaac Alexander, Andrew Bolya, Dairinn Finn, Brianna Freaney, and Carly Neumann placed 10th out of 15 schools at SUNY Binghamton.
Coach Vicky Williams’ Division I team (grades 4 and 5) took first place in the second problem, “Something Fishy,” at the regional competition. The “Something Fishy” scenario put their creative abilities to the test, as students designed a machine to simulate different styles of fishing and demonstrated it through a dramatic performance. Students portrayed different roles including the angler, as well as the potential catch that doesn’t want to be caught! Team members Evan Bauer, Emmylu Carls, Aiden Harrington, Allison Pfeffer, Ryan Quinn, Sofia Royer, and Alysa Williams placed 4th out of 18 schools at the state competition!
For Problem 3, Coach Danielle Hall’s team honed their dramatic abilities through a performance based on one of Aesop’s fables. The team members not only chose a fable to perform, but they also emphasized the moral lesson as “going viral,” meaning it was rapidly shared throughout the community and beyond! Team members William Benatovich, Shelby Colburn, Gwen DeChane, Katrina DeChane, Ben Hogenmiller, Alex Silvernail, and Sarah Weber created a performance set in am historic era in which the narrator shares the fable. Their excellent performance in this problem earned them second place at the regional competition, and Miss Hall’s team placed 6th out of 18 teams at SUNY Binghamton over the weekend.
Coach Leah Klahn’s Division II team members received first place at the regional competition in Problem 5: “Furs, Fins, Feathers & Friends.” For Problem 5, students created a comical performance that portrays problem solving from the perspective and experience of three different animals who are all working to save the animal population from an outside threat. The performance incorporated singing and dancing in order to show the animals’ range of emotions. Miss Klahn is proud of team members Willow Comstock-Eastlick, Mandy Hurlburt, Matthew Ives, Daniel Pfeffer, Emma Steffenhagen, Kelsea Tomczak, and Elsa Woodarek, who placed 9th out of 18 teams at the state competition.
The Odyssey of the Mind competition season concludes with the World Finals, which will take place from May 25-28 at Iowa State University. Although ECS teams will not be advancing to this stage of the competition this year, Bower is proud of her students’ hard work at the regional and state competitions. Not only is Odyssey of the Mind comprised of teams of students, but a devoted team of coaches, parents, and administrators work together to make such a program possible year after year.
Reflecting on the 2016 season, Bower said, “I would like to thank the coaches for their endless hours and guidance, the parents for their patience and the ECS Board of Education and administration for their continued support of a program that promotes teamwork and creativity and aligns directly with the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) disciplines. This is a tremendous opportunity for our students!”