What is Odyssey of the Mind?
The program is composed of two parts: Long-Term Problems and Spontaneous Problems. In the Long-Term Problem, students create a performance which solves a given problem within a limited budget. Teams must create and present the performance themselves, without the help of coaches or parents. This gives the students a sense of ownership and accomplishment in their creation. The students present their Long-Term Problem solution at a tournament where they compete with other teams in the area.
The Spontaneous portion of the program consists of three types of problems: verbal, hands-on, and verbal hands-on. Spontaneous Problems encourage rapid-fire creativity, brainstorming, and communication. Students can practice Spontaneous Problems all year, but they will not know which problem they will get until the day of competition. At tournament, they are required to solve a problem, typically in 5-10 minutes, and are scored on their solution.
Odyssey of the Mind coordinates particularly well with the International Baccalaureate (IB) program as it encourages the development of the whole child with a focus on inquiry-based learning. It teaches students to solve their own problems and become life-long learners. Because Odyssey of the Mind is an international program, children become aware of how students from other countries are also solving the same Long-Term Problems.
Odyssey of the Mind also focuses on the acquisition of real-world skills in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and math. This is combined with a strong musical, artistic, and performance component, all while students are learning to work together as a team. These are skills students will put to good use throughout their lifetime.
Odyssey of the Mind at McGraw
McGraw IB World School has a robust Odyssey of the Mind program. Typically, the school has more teams competing than any other school in Northern Colorado and our teams have historically done very well at competition. In 2016 and 2017, all of McGraw’s Division 1 teams performed in the top four spots at the Regional Tournament and advanced to the State Tournament. In 2017, two teams advanced to the World Finals in Michigan.
At McGraw, there are two types of teams. Primary teams consist of kindergarten through 2nd grade students. All primary teams solve the same Long-Term Problem and the focus is on gaining creative problem-solving experience. Primary teams only compete at the Regional Tournament with feedback from judges based on 1-5 stars. All Primary teams receive a medal.
Division 1 teams consist of 3rd-5th grade students. They compete in one of five types of Long-Term Problems: vehicle, mechanical/technical, classics, structure, and performance. The Division 1 teams are scored by judges and compete against other teams for the opportunity to advance to the State Tournament and World Finals.
McGraw’s Odyssey of the Mind teams begin forming in the fall. Look for a registration form to come home in your child’s yellow folder in mid to late September with a kick-off informational meeting in mid October. Teams meet every Thursday at the school from 3:45 -4:45 from October through the Regional Tournament in March. There may be additional meetings, especially as tournament draws closer. Primary teams complete their season after the Regional Tournament. Division 1 teams that advance to the State Tournament and the World Finals may continue to meet through May.
There is no cost to join Odyssey of the Mind at McGraw. The school fields the membership cost and fees for tournament registration. There may be some cost to families for t-shirts, materials, workshops, and travel if they advance to the World Finals.
Odyssey of the Mind depends on parent and family volunteers to serve as coaches, judges, and tournament volunteers. The program would not be able to continue without the generosity of the parents and other family members who contribute their time. There is no prior experience required to volunteer. Training and support is provided. If you are thinking of becoming a coach, judge, or tournament volunteer and would like to learn more, please let us know.
Below is a general description and the time commitments of each OM volunteer role:
Primary Coach (or Co-Coach): This is the person in charge meetings and the primary facilitator for the team. The primary coach will attend the half-day coaches training in the fall (their first year) and attend most Thursday team meetings as well as provide support at the tournaments.
Assistant Coach (or Co-Coach: This person can attend the half-day coaches training, if desired. They will attend most of the Thursday team meetings, providing support to the primary coach and team as needed, and attend the tournaments.
Substitute Coach: This person can attend the half-day coaches training, if desired. They will be available to fill in whenever the primary or assistant coach is unable to attend the Thursday meetings. The substitute coach can also volunteer as a judge or tournament volunteer if they would like.
Judge: This person will attend a half-day judges training in February and will provide judging throughout the day of the Regional Tournament and State Tournament, if their team advances. Judges typically are not available to watch their child’s performance.
Tournament Volunteer: This person will volunteer for a 3-hour shift on tournament day, scheduled so that they can watch their child’s Long-Term Performance. There is no advanced training required.
In addition to the official volunteers, every family is expected to help their team throughout the Odyssey of the Mind season. There are multiple ways to contribute, including teaching skills (sewing, painting, engineering, music, construction, etc), bringing snacks to meetings, preparing spontaneous problems, hosting extra practices, supporting the team in finding materials for their long-term problem, transporting props and costumes to the tournaments, and helping with fundraising.
Want more information?
If you would like to learn more about Odyssey of the Mind, check out the links below:
If you are interested in learning more about Odyssey of the Mind at McGraw, please contact our coordinators: