If you'd have asked me a year ago what I thought of Odyssey of the Mind, I'd have looked at you funny and asked if you were talking about a book or something.

Had it not been for my high school friends Raina and Amanda, I'd probably never known about the existence of Odyssey of the Mind. Raina and I grew up close friends in my hometown of Scotia, NY (a small river town sandwiched between Albany and Saratoga) but lost touch when we were 18 year old and didn't sort of reconnect until we were almost 30 years old. So when Raina reached out to me a few weeks ago to see if I could recommend a place for her son's Odyssey of the Mind group (which my friend Amanda's son is also part of) to crash during the tournament, I couldn't pass up the chance to invite them to stay at my place and reconnect with Raina a little more and also check out what Odyssey of the Mind is all about.

Odyssey of the Mind is pretty cool. Their website explains what they're all about much better than I could, so I'll let them explain:

Odyssey of the Mind is an international educational program that provides creative problem-solving opportunities for students from kindergarten through college. Team members apply their creativity to solve problems that range from building mechanical devices to presenting their own interpretation of literary classics. They then bring their solutions to competition on the local, state, and World level. Thousands of teams from throughout the U.S. and from about 25 other countries participate in the program. The Odyssey of the Mind teaches students to learn creative problem-solving methods while having fun in the process. For more than twenty five years, Odyssey of the Mind has helped teachers generate excitement in their students. By tapping into creativity, and through encouraging imaginative paths to problem-solving, students learn skills that will provide them with the ability to solve problems — great and small — for a lifetime. The Odyssey of the Mind teaches students how to think divergently by providing open-ended problems that appeal to a wide range of interests. Students learn how to identify challenges and to think creatively to solve those problems. They are free to express their ideas and suggestions without fear of criticism. The creative problem-solving process rewards thinking “outside of the box.” While conventional thinking has an important place in a well-rounded education, students need to learn how to think creatively and productively.

In addition to my hometown high school, several local schools participated this weekend at Odyssey of the Mind and did phenomenally well.  A huge kudos to all the local schools who participated and especially to the local schools that placed 5th place or higher:

  • Homer Brink Elementary School in Endwell took 5th in The Email Must Go Through Division I
  • Owego Free Academy in Owego took 5th place in It’s How You Look at It Div III
  • Maine-Endwell Middle School Takes 4th Place in Pet Project Division II
  • African Road Elementary School in Vestal took 3rd place in the Tumble-wood Div I
  • Windsor Middle School in Windsor took 2nd place in the ARTchitecture: The Musical Division II and is off to World Finals May 22nd-25th at Michigan State University!

If you’ve got a school aged kid interested in being part of Odyssey of the Mind for 2013-2014 you can either talk to their teacher or get more info here.

School ranking source: NYS Odyssey of the Mind