I’m writing this blog on the eve of leaving for the World Odyssey of the Mind Tournament at Michigan State University. One of our 10 elementary OM teams advanced to the Florida State Tournament, placed fourth…not bad for a 4th grade team…but then went on to win the “Ranatra Fusca (water walking insect) Creativity Award,” a ticket to the world tournament. They gave one award from the 100 teams in their age division.
I really can’t begin to explain what Odyssey of the Mind is but check out this link to a Channel 10 feature on our kids. You really have to see it to understand it: http://on.wtsp.com/1JqHvtQ
My OM Experience
My OM experience began in 1989. OotM was a well-established program in Richland County, Ohio, and found a home in the gifted education programs. I was the elementary principal at Mansfield Christian School, and when I heard about the program, I knew that it would fill a void in traditional teaching methods. The program’s premise is that creativity can be learned…really! Although we did not have a “gifted program” at our school, I used some creativity of my own to convince the assistant superintendent (a friend) that all children in our school were “gifted and “talented.”
The first year we had one team of 5th graders which included my son and six of his friends. We had five weeks to prepare our problem solution and with our relaxed approach (translation: we really no idea what we were doing), our team won the local Ranatra Fusca Creativity Award. We did not advance to the next level, but with that recognition, I knew I found something special for kids…and parents.
The next year we had nine teams in the elementary and high school, and four teams advanced to the state tournament. The third year we hosted the local tournament with similar results. After the fourth year I made the move to Lakeland Christian. Another story!
OotM Comes to Polk County
Polk County had no involvement in OM, so I had to put it on hold. When I could stand it no longer, I renewed my membership and joined the BucBay OM Region. At that time I only promoted the program in 5th grade and enjoyed having 2-3 teams a year. For a season we had a middle school teacher at LCS who was an OMer in her high school years. She coached two middle school teams and eventually some high school teams began participating. She left LCS after 5 years, and the secondary program left with her.
Four years ago I became our science resource teacher, and I was able to open up the program the grades 2-5. The program grew from 4 to 6 to 10 teams with a rather low key approach. I must say it has been a ride!
“Engaged Learning…Can Last a Lifetime”
During the filming of the team by Bobby Lewis of Channel 10 WTSP, a LCS alumnus stopped by to see me. After watching the students perform, she sent me a card with a donation to the
team. Here are some of her encouraging words: “Being able to watch your students in action was such a valuable experience for me. They impressed me so much…I really appreciate seeing students in this environment. I hope you realize how significant your role in facilitating this kind of learning really is. Students really do not get enough of this kind of engaged learning….it can last for a lifetime.
Obviously I agree. To be honest, OM would not happen here without a supportive administration and parents willing to be involved and coach these students.
Mr. Fred Wiechmann serves as a Science Resource Teacher for LCS. You can email him firstname.lastname@example.org.