Odyssey of the Mind


Use the word TAN in a sentence.

My khaki pants are TAN.   – Not bad.

I got a sunTAN at the beach.  – Better.

Behave, or I’ll TAN your hide!  – Excellent!

I ate a TANgerine with lunch today.   – BINGO!!

Ohhh, I get it!  That could take us on another TANgent.  Have you ever played with TANagrams?  I saw an oranguTAN at the zoo!!  You get the idea.  🙂

If you’ve ever coached Odyssey of the Mind, you recognize this as a “Spontaneous” exercise.  The Spontaneous component of Odyssey is a quick thinking, out-of-the-box, high pressure activity that pushes kids for creative or humorous answers with only a minute or two to think.  Other spontaneous problems involve the team building a tower or bridge out of things like spaghetti, straws, marshmallows, toothpicks, etc.  Originally, I thought kids either “had it” or didn’t when this type of thinking was involved.  Yet, in almost 5 years of coaching Odyssey of the Mind, I’ve seen that this type of thinking can indeed be developed.

Odyssey of the Mind is all about problem solving.  In addition to spontaneous problems, the team has to create an 8-minute skit that solves a problem, and meets a number of specific criteria.  They are responsible for writing the skit, creating all the props, costumes, and backdrops, and keeping track that they stay within the allotted budget.

Haven’t heard of Odyssey?  I encourage you to take a look  http://www.odysseyofthemind.com/.  If you haven’t yet noticed, one of the greatest things about Odyssey of the Mind is that it is right in line with the skills we are cultivating in our 21st Century Learners.  Innovation – Creative Thinking – Problem Solving.  These are the skills that will make our students successful in the real world.  Check it out…  Odyssey team members excel in –

Adaptability and Managing Complexity: The ability to modify one’s thinking, attitude, or behavior to be better suited to current or future environments; and the ability to handle multiple goals, tasks, and inputs, while understanding and adhering to constraints of time, resources, and systems.

Curiosity: The desire to know or the spark of interest that leads to inquiry.

Creativity: The act of bringing something into existence that is genuinely new and original.

Risk Taking: The willingness to make mistakes, or tackle extremely challenging problems without obvious solutions, such that one’s personal growth, integrity, or accomplishments are enhanced.

Higher-Order Thinking and Sound Reasoning:  The cognitive processes of analysis, comparison, inference and interpretation, evaluation, and synthesis applied to a range of academic domains and problem-solving contexts.

While students create solutions and compete, they develop…

Global Competitiveness and Understanding – Meeting teams from around the world at World Finals.

Intellectual Curiosity
– Finding information needed to solve the problem, and choose a problem and idea that is personally exciting.

Interpersonal and Collaborative Skills/Communication
– Team work – consensus, collaboration, communication.  Understanding and valuing the power of diversity within the team.  Understanding personal strengths and weaknesses.

Problem Solving & Creative and Critical Thinking
– Analyzing complex open-ended real world problems.  Identifying challenges within the problem.  Brainstorming possible technical solutions.  Brainstorming possible thematic and artistic solutions.

Evaluating potential solutions
– How creative is this solution? Will other teams have thought of this? Spontaneous-training your mind to generate creative solutions by analyzing and evaluating your ideas and learning to use targeted thinking strategies.

– No Outside Assistance rule.  Team generated research, solutions and decision making.  Select potential solutions using scoring criteria.  Planning for tournaments.

Authentic Assessment,  Accountability,  and Adaptability
– Team reflection on effectiveness during spontaneous practice.  Team reflection on tournament results.  Planning and refining for future tournaments.  Create/test/improve/re-test best solutions.

Team Picture

I am passionate about Odyssey of the Mind, and I love our kids!!  We practice after school once a week, and every Saturday for 3 hours from September until our regional competition in February.  My team has been fortunate, making it to World Finals in 2007, and again last year in 2010.  A great deal of that success is due to the fact that we are teaching these skills every day at my school, and our kids love the challenge.  I’m grateful to have been a part of some of their fondest memories and success stories.

4 thoughts on “Odyssey of the Mind

  1. Pingback: Constructing Creativity in the Classroom | SelfImprovement4Noobs ★ Coaching ★ Goal Setting ★ Personal Growth ★ Positive Attitude ★ Stress Management ★ Inspirational

  2. Pingback: Constructing Creativity in the Classroom — Patti's Ponderings…

  3. Odyssey of the mind is truly an exceptional program and one that I have competed in for 4 years now! My team has been fortunate enough to make it to worlds every year, and we are hoping to visit Iowa again this year!

  4. Liza – That’s fantastic! I’d love to make it to Iowa this year, although we had many 5th graders move up, and have a very young team this year. They are so much fun to work with though! Thanks for your post! 🙂

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