An IB World School

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Odyssey of the Mind Program

Odyssey of the Mind

Odyssey of the Mind is an international program which teaches creative problem solving, teamwork, and performance skills in an environment of fun competition. Students develop self-confidence and form new friendships.


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 spontaneous problem, typically in 5-10 minutes, and are scored on their solution.


Odyssey of the Mind aligns particularly well with the International Baccalaureate (IB) program as it encourages the development of the whole child with a focus on promoting student agency and 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, and may be paired with a buddy team from a different country at the OM World Finals.


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 has a robust Odyssey of the Mind program. Our school typically has 6-8 OM teams competing in the Regional OM tournament. Several McGraw Division 1 teams have qualified each year to the OM State and World Finals competitions. 


At McGraw, there are two types of teams. Primary teams consist of 1st and 2nd grade students. All Primary teams solve the same Long-Term Problem. The focus is on gaining creative problem-solving experience. Primary teams only compete at the Regional Tournament to receive feedback from judges. All Primary team members 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. An informational meeting for all new and returning McGraw OM students and their parents will be scheduled in September. A kick-off meeting for all students who join a team will be scheduled in October. Teams meet once per week right after school from October through the Regional Tournament in March. There may be additional meetings, especially as the tournament draws closer. Primary teams complete their season at the Regional Tournament.  Division 1 teams that advance to the State Tournament and the World Finals may continue to meet through May.


The school fields the OM membership cost and fees for Regional and State 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. New coaches attend the half-day OM coaches training in the fall and attend weekly after school 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 weekly after school 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 a weekly after school team meeting. 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:

Colorado Odyssey of the Mind:

Odyssey of the Mind:


If you are interested in learning more about Odyssey of the Mind at McGraw, please contact our coordinators:

Brittany Goll, McGraw OM Parent Coordinator:; 970-310-0942

Paul Schkade, McGraw OM Building Coordinator:; 970-488-8374 

PSD does not unlawfully discriminate on the basis of race, color, creed, religion, national origin, ancestry, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, marital status, veteran status, age or disability in access or admission to, or treatment or employment in, its programs or activities. A lack of English speaking skills will not be a barrier to admission or participation.