Thomasville City Scholars Academy students in Katie Chastain’s Design Lab creative thinking classes hosted a “Makers Faire and Market” on December 12 in Downtown Thomasville at Studio 209 and raised nearly $3000 for their upcoming Odyssey of the Mind (OM) regional competitions in Valdosta and Lilburn.
OM is a creative problem-solving program for students from kindergarten through college. It’s an “interscholastic sport” and is meant to promote and encourage creativity and teamwork among the participants.
In regards to his favorite aspect of OM, veteran “OMer” Jack Atkinson said, “I love the dynamic atmosphere of OM. Keep dreaming!”
“Money was raised to help fund the teams through items the kids made themselves and through products donated by local businesses, like Sweet Grass, Grassroots, and others,” said Chastain.
Students spent weeks making different products, such as homemade pots, to sell to the public to raise money for props and costumes for the OM competitions. There were also interactive booths that allowed the public to create their own products that they could purchase and take home.
In actual OM competitions, there are long-term problems along with spontaneous problems. Teams can choose from the categories of mechanical/vehicle, technical performance, classics, structure, and performance for their long-term problem. They spend months preparing a script, sets, and costumes to then present their solution for judges to this problem.
In addition to preparing financially for their long-term solutions, the Scholars Academy also hosted a Spontaneous Workshop for visiting OM teams facilitated by officials from Georgia Odyssey of the Mind on Saturday, November 14. The workshop was intended for teams to improve and ask questions about how “Spontaneous” works.
First year OMer, Lillith Edwards said, “Spontaneous is more serious than I thought. You have to really think outside-of-the-box to be successful.”
The workshop lasted from 8:30 to 12:30, and each team that came was given eight “problems.” There are three types of problems: Hands-On, Verbal, and Hands-On Verbal. Hands-On forces the team to solve a physical/technical problem, while Verbal forces the team to give as many creative verbal answers to the problem as they can. Hands-On Verbal is a combination of the two.
As is the case with all OM competitions, coaches were not allowed to observe or help their teams during the spontaneous problems. The students solve the problem by working together.
“The hardest part is that I am not supposed to help them in any way on their long term problems, but it ends up being most beneficial to them. They come up with solutions that are far beyond what I might conceive,” said Chastain.
Chastain’s students are spending their remaining time before competition practicing spontaneous problems in class and putting the finishing touches on their long-term problems after school.
The next steps for the OM teams are the regional competitions, which are February 20 in Valdosta and March 12 in Lilburn.
“We’re very confident that we can progress and achieve,” Atkinson said.
For decades, the Thomasville City Schools OM teams have had success in the regional, state, and world competitions under the direction of Sharon Cernogorsky. Last year, two teams traveled to the World Finals at Michigan State University. Elijah Humphries, Mathew Whetsell, Jack Atkinson, Bo Miller, Jala Walker, Matthew Cline, and Courtney Butler experienced their first world competition. The other team, comprised of Asa Harbin, Mason Hodge, Jacob Rieber, Sharon Autry, Carlyn Autry, Cameren Rogers, and Shivanee Patel, were on their third advance to world competition and placed sixth overall.
Cernogorsky is continuing to work with the latter group but was delighted to hand over the reins of the program to an enthusiastic and creative teacher like Chastain.
“She is doing a fantastic job of putting a new spin on the hard work of OM,” said Cernogorsky.
Cernogorsky added that she always knew that the challenges of being an OM coach are vast, but seeing it from the outside and watching a new person sculpt the program while putting all of the components together makes the necessary talent and dedication even more clear to her.