Unionville Elementary Odyssey of the Mind teams headed to world finals
Kaitlyn Farrar is on her way to the University of Maryland – by way of extreme Mousemobile. Together with her seven Odyssey of the Mind teammates, their self-created Mousemobile uses a mere mousetrap as its sole source of energy, and has successfully run courses with roadblock challenges in a world of their own making at both regional and state competitions earlier this year.
Competing against other elementary-aged Mousemobile teams, Farrar’s team took first place at both the regional competition and the state competition in Asheville. “It’s a great honor to place at any of these competitions,” Farrar, 10, said.
Together with another Unionville Elementary Odyssey of the Mind team who also placed first in Asheville in a separate category, the two groups head to College Park, Md., next month to compete in the World Finals. The second team rose to the top tackling the “Le Tour Guide,” problem, where students had to come together to create and present an original performance involving a classical character that acts as a tour guide at real life and fictitious settings.
In both cases, Unionville’s Odyssey of the Mind teams faced a unique problem with distinct requirements, calling for what team coach and teacher Eric Hinson describes as “out of the box” thinking. Students had to come up with a make-believe world of sorts as a way to showcase their problem’s solution requiring them to create a script, design scenery and stage props, and even come up with musical numbers complete with lyrics.
“We are really proud of all our kids,” Hinson said, who explains that these teams and their coaches have worked for months to hone their projects into competition-shape. As competition time neared, Odyssey teams met as many as three times a week and spend 4 to 5 hours a day on Saturdays preparing. “We’ve worked hard and are so excited,” Farrar said.
Odyssey of the Mind makes for a rewarding experience filled with memories and lessons that last a lifetime. Mousemobile team members Buddy LaFluer and Torri Dennehy recall challenges around figuring out how to bring a theme to reality, while Le Tour Guide members Tyler Gentry and Meredith Shank point to learning the ins and outs of teamwork and figuring out who should do what. “The experience really helped bond us,” Gentry said.
Making the dream a reality
According to Unionville Principal Sharyn Von Cannon in a letter to friends of the school, the World Finals experience will “provide international exposure for these teams.” Students will compete with teams from more than 40 different states and 30 different countries. By participating in the World Finals, team members get the opportunity to “see the same problems approached with different solutions,” Hinson said.
“Children will also get a taste of life in a University setting,” said Vice Principal Bryan Lynip, as they will sleep in dorm rooms and dine in the University of Maryland cafeteria.
To make this Memorial Day weekend trip a reality, teams need to raise $18,000 in a short time frame to cover expenses, which include room and board at the University as well as costs for the required chaperones. A $1,000 sponsorship will cover full trip expenses for one child. Corporate sponsorships of over $100 will have their names prominently displayed on the back of the team’s World Finals T-shirts. “Any level of financial support would be greatly appreciated,” Von Cannon expressed in her letter.
Despite the hours of “sweat equity” put into their respective projects, all the children kept their grades up. “When kids are involved to this extent in any activity,” Hinson said, they know they have to step up their game in the classroom and they did.”
According to fellow coach Sharon Williams, also a Unionville teacher, the entire school stepped up their game. “We had lots of volunteers pitch in when necessary,” she said. “The whole school has been very helpful and cooperative.”
A three-time Odyssey of the Mind participant and a two-time World Finalist, Farrar has a hard time picking which year has been her favorite. “Each year has been awesome,”
she said. “They’ve all been really good experiences.” Farrar hopes to form a team when she graduates and moves on to sixth grade at Piedmont Middle School next year.
Those interested in supporting Unionville student’s trek to the World Finals can submit check donations made out to Unionville Elementary. Contact Unionville Elementary School at 704-296-3055 with any questions.