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Winter Park / Maitland Observer Thursday, Mar. 22, 2018 1 year ago

Killarney Elementary School’s Odyssey of the Mind team takes home first place in competition.

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After winning their regional in the creative problem solving competition, Killarney will compete at the state level at UCF in April.
by: Troy Herring Sports Editor

Welcome to the Stellar Hangout, a place where aliens can hang out and grab a bite to eat while they enjoy a show.

The Hangout is the place where a few E.T.s can kick back and relax as they take a break from their grand treasure hunt.

It’s also a place born from the creativity of a small group of humanoids at Killarney Elementary School on Planet Earth.

The scene, story and costumes themselves were created and put together by the school’s Odyssey of the Mind team — which won first place in the Division 1 regional held at Edgewater High School on Feb. 24. 

“I was in tears,” said Susan Silverman, the team’s coach and a fourth-grade teacher at the school. “I was crying because we had been practicing and practicing and practicing, and that was actually the best they had ever done. … They gave it all they got when it really mattered, and I was really proud of them.”

Odyssey of the Mind, which started in 1978, is a world-wide creative problem solving competition among participating middle and high schools. 

Courtesy photo

Each year schools get to pick from one of the five questions offered and explore it through analytical and creative means.

So for this year’s competition, the program at Killarney picked a performance problem and were asked to create an eight-minute performance in the most creative way possible. 

“If they go out and purchase costumes for their performance, they would score less points than if they were to make them out of unique recyclable materials — the more creativity the better,” Silverman said. “In the problem there are specific guidelines they have to stick with, and from there they can get creative.”

Among the guidelines included were that there needed to be three aliens, but the third had to be created in some other way — as in, not human. The students were also asked to create their own made-up food and develop a map that goes from 2D to 3D during the story.

And the planning itself has been fairly long and thorough, with the group starting up their project back in October.

“They put in a lot of hard work just before the performance,” Silverman said. “I would say I had them meeting with me every single day for two-and-a-half weeks straight up until that Saturday, so they were very dedicated.”

The first-place finish is an impressive feat when you consider that this season of Odyssey of the Mind was only the school’s second time competing.

Two years ago the school’s principal mentioned the program and asked if a teacher would be willing to help lead. After looking into the program and checking out the regional, Silverman decided to act.

“It was so amazing being around all of these children who were so focused and so energized to do well at something that they worked so hard on,” Silverman said. “Everyone is very creative and not judgmental in any way, because the more creativity the better. It was just so cool.”

In their first year of competition, Killarney finished an impressive sixth among 20 teams.

Unlike last year, Killarney know finds themselves heading right down the road to take part in the state competition on April 14 on the campus of UCF. That competition will have around 50 teams, Silverman said.

The next stage after states, should they qualify again, would be the world’s competition, which will be held in Iowa City at the University of Iowa.

Although Silverman said she is looking forward to helping her students grow through this process, there’s a lot more that these kids can take away from the Odyssey competition.

“They’re all such strong students… so when you have seven leaders and everyone thinks their idea is the best, that’s really what we had to spend a lot of our time and focus on,” Silverman said. “Really, what they gained the most from this is how to work together as a team, and that’s just a life skill that is going to benefit them for forever,” she said.

Troy Herring is the sports editor at the West Orange Times and Windermere Observer. He is a graduate of the University of Mount Olive (BS '12) and the University of Alabama (MA '16)....

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