Educator Features

The End of an Odyssey
Students in costume performing a skit
Students from elementary school through college showed they got the message loud and clear at last month's 2005 Odyssey of the Mind World Finals at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

Image to right: Students were challenged to present an original skit performed three times using three different methods of communication. Credit: NASA

More than 700 student teams from schools in the United States and about 20 other countries, separated into four divisions based on grade level and age, took part in the culminating event of this annual competition in which students creatively solve problems ranging from the technical to the artistic.

This year marked the fifth time NASA has sponsored an Odyssey of the Mind problem. "Get the Message" challenged students to present an original skit that told a story three times, each time using a different method of communication -- a primitive method, an evolved method and a futuristic method. A portrayal of an Earth system process also had to be incorporated into the performance.

The six-member team -- all juniors -- from Massabesic High School in Waterboro, Maine, finished at the top of its division by integrating the themes of winter, spring and summer into a story about an alien visiting Earth from outer space. According to Eleanor Roberts, one of the team's coaches, the multidisciplinary aspect of the problem is what spurred the students' creativity.

"The nice part about this problem was, although it was science-based, it drew in language arts and communications," Roberts said. "They had to blend [everything] together to make it work."

A team of six eighth-graders from Houston's Lanier Middle School won its division using a different approach, managing to weave three stages of phytoplankton -- nutrition, full bloom and death -- into a tale about celebrities and movies. The students received high praise for their innovative props and costumes, which included a chandelier made of plastic balls and hair made of pasta.

"It's that highest level of learning because they have to learn [the science] first and then they have to put it in a different context," said Denise Walker, a coach for the Lanier team.

The other two divisions of "Get the Message" were won by teams from Saxe Middle School in New Canaan, Conn., and Shippensburg University in Shippensburg, Penn. In total, more than 150 teams competed in the category.

Competition information for the upcoming school year can be found at the Odyssey of the Mind Web site:
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Related Resource
NASA's Odyssey of the Mind Web Site:
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Dan Stillman, Institute for Global Environmental Strategies