Filed Under (rural life, rural living) by admin on 03-07-2008

For my wife’s OM team, the stands, uprights, and cross-bars to hold scenery; the scenery itself; props; and costumes fill a surprisingly small area of the playroom floor.  The debris from the construction effort spreads into the bathroom, the adjacent billiards room, and the garage.  So far, this year’s team has avoided serious injury despite their extensive use of my cutting and power tools.  Judging from the weekly noise, there’s no doubt they had fun.

Odyssey Of The Mind (OM) is very popular in central Pennsylvania. It is a program in which teams of up to seven kids compete against other teams in creative problem solving. A team chooses a challenge from the selections prepared for the year’s competition. The problem comes with a detailed set of rules that describe what constitutes a winning solution: Use seven bamboo chopsticks to build a structure that can hold at least six tons while moving five miles per hour under its own power on a gym floor. Or: train some type of domesticated animal to reenact the signing of the declaration of independence using ink and paper manufactured from raw materials during the presentation. Or: put on a play in which scenes change three times, costumes change once, and at least one character’s actions violate our understanding of the space-time continuum. (I had to summarize; the rules usually cover many pages.)

Over the course of fifteen months, a team interprets the rules; yells a lot; cuts, builds, and paints stuff; screams and shouts; writes a script; and makes a lot of random noise. Then they attend a regional competition at which they set up their creations and perform. The roles of adults in all this? Hands off. Adults are involved to keep kids from hurting each other, and to apply antibiotic ointment when it’s needed. Adults also buy supplies, provide snacks, run taxi service, and serve as judges during the competition.

My kids participate on OM teams, and they obviously have a blast. My wife also participates in OM; she organizes all the teams in Lewisburg. More than that, she is the parent “coach” of one of my kids’ teams. This means that for fifteen months each year (OK, it’s closer to four months) my basement is the epicenter of a catastrophic seismic OM event.

This season’s regional competition is tomorrow (OM is a winter sport). I look forward to seeing the teams perform; the kids are very creative, and the competition is always fun. At the same time, I make no secret of my enthusiasm for my wife’s team to get its stuff out of my basement: The place is a heap. No doubt thousands of parents world-wide will get the same satisfactions from tomorrow’s regional events.

Learn more about OM at their web site: Odyssey of the Mind

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