Real Richmond Review: My Son Loved Odyssey of the Mind

Odyssey of the MindLast fall, my ten year-old son brought home a permission slip to audition for a program called Odyssey of the Mind. One of his older friends had participated at another school and we heard it was a great program, but we really didn’t understand what it was all about.

The students in my son's group working together to fix a prop before the show.
The students in my son’s group working together to fix a prop before the show.

We later learned that this program is offered all over the country and that kids have the opportunity– through competition–to get to the state and national levels with other creative thinkers working through all types of challenges in the spirit of learning (and having a little fun).

We signed, he jumped into practicing after school once a week. No big deal.

After the holidays, the intensity grew and practices doubled, but he still didn’t give us much feedback. (You know when you ask your kid how it went and they say “good?” Exactly.)

Within the last few weeks, though, these third-through-fifth graders really started getting their “act” together. They were tasked with a challenge called “Pet Project” where they had to work as a team, under the guidance of but ultimately without the help of two amazing instructors, Ms. Hobson and Ms. Gregory. And apparently he needed a bowtie for his part to which I immediately and enthusiastically complied.

Ms. Hobson, left and Ms. Gregory, right who I'm sure will be upset with me for using their photos. Sorry ladies--we love ya!
Ms. Hobson, left and Ms. Gregory, right who I’m sure will be upset with me for using their photos. Sorry ladies–we love ya!

Not only did they act out an adorable skit, they created mini-vehicles that played a role in their program and had specific targets to meet according to OM rules. I can’t articulate their eight-minute presentation well here, but I can tell you that from props to costumes (including whipped cream, pet parts and some adorably kids) this was amazing to watch come together.

One of the best parts of the day was the downtime--here we goofed off in the rocking chairs in the school lobby.
One of the best parts of the day was the downtime–here we goofed off in the rocking chairs in the school lobby.

Each student had a character–some had speaking parts, some didn’t, all played a crucial role–my son played “Norman the Doorman.”

I have to say, I was impressed at my little Minecraft addict’s ability to focus on his part and how much he got into it. Not only was he super-engaged throughout the day, but the enthusiasm he showed for his team as they waited for the awards ceremony later that night was fun to see.

As the announcer called their school for having won third place, my kiddo jumped up and cheered and I’ve gotta tell ya–this isn’t a kid who normally jumps up and cheers (he’s low-key and cool like that.)

This is the obligatory adorable photo I have to include of my kid. {Sorry}
This is the obligatory adorable photo I have to include of my kid. {Sorry}

The most telling moment? When I was speaking to one of his leaders and we both had the “aha!” moment that this is exactly the kind of collaboration, quick-thinking, and team-building that is needed to succeed in real life and that will never be tested for on an SOL. HEY I HAVE AN IDEA! Is a pretty awesome thing to hear from your kid.

One of the more stressful moments with the judges.
One of the more stressful moments with the judges.

This program cost nothing (unless you count a $10 for a t-shirt, an $8 bowtie and occasionally sending a snack for the team) and the school hosted a spaghetti dinner to help defray expenses, which was actually a ton of fun. Truth be told, I’ve had paid anything for him to have this experience.

In the heat of the moment. All their hard work and practice paid off!
In the heat of the moment. All their hard work and practice paid off!

If you’d like more information on this cool program, please check out Odysseyofthemind.com. A million thanks to Leslie Hobson and Rechelle Gregory. And I can’t forget Ms. Noctor, too. You’re all amazing.

The kids accepting their 3rd place award-HOLLA!
The kids accepting their 3rd place award-HOLLA!