Weekly Feature



2012-03-29 / Local News

East’s odyssey leads to state competition

by KIMBERLY MCDOWELL
Editor


East Middle School students Elliott Brown, sitting; Vicky Hearn, left; Sydney Pittner; and Katie Grannell practice their skit for the New York State Odyssey of the Mind competition this weekend. This is the school’s first time advancing to states, and the team was the only one in the district to compete regionally. Missing from the photo is team member Ryan Kostek. 
Photo by Daniel RosatiPurchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com East Middle School students Elliott Brown, sitting; Vicky Hearn, left; Sydney Pittner; and Katie Grannell practice their skit for the New York State Odyssey of the Mind competition this weekend. This is the school’s first time advancing to states, and the team was the only one in the district to compete regionally. Missing from the photo is team member Ryan Kostek. Photo by Daniel RosatiPurchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com

The Odyssey of the Mind team at East Middle School will make a big “splash” in Binghamton, N.Y., this weekend.

Following a first-place win March 10 at the regional level, the team is now advancing to the New York State Odyssey of the Mind competition on Saturday. This is the first time the school has ever sent a team to states, and the team is the only one in the district to compete this year.

Odyssey of the Mind is a program that seeks to foster creative problem-solving skills through teamwork. Teams are asked to choose one of five complex problems and then work together for six months to create not only a solution, but a skit complete with props, scenery and costumes — all completely student-made.

East Middle’s five-member team chose “Odyssey Angels” as its problem, meaning they would have to create a scenario where the group turns a negative situation into a positive. The angels are characters in the skit that ultimately save a community from a bad situation. One angel cannot speak; the other has a special power.

Eighth-graders Sydney Pittner and Katie Grannell assume those roles respectively as “angel fish” — a spin off the original problem — in the team’s sea-themed scenario. Katie’s special ability is to stop time; she wears a cardboard clock on the front of her costume to illustrate that power. Sydney carries a bag of props used as communication devices, since she’s prohibited from using her voice.

The two are part of the S.E.A., or Secret Extrication Agency, and are tasked with stopping the “evil pelican,” played by eighth-grader Vicky Hearn.

Elliot Brown, also in the eighth grade, assumed two roles during rehearsal on Friday in place of seventh-grader Ryan Kostek, the fifth member who was missing. Elliot opens the skit as a young boy in a makeshift bathtub, singing “Splish, Splash [I Was Taking a Bath].” Ultimately, the pelican unplugs the tub and causes his toys to flush down the drain, further causing chaos in the “sea” below.

Humor and sea-related puns are used throughout the team’s scenario. At one point, Katie makes a call on her “shellular device” and Elliot cries out for “kelp!”

Team members said they face various challenges for the presentation, including having to memorize the script and perform within eight minutes. The team is confined to a certain boundary when performing, and also could not exceed $125 toward the cost of props, costumes and scenery.

The members agreed that they prefer to work in a group, versus individually, and that they feed off one another’s ideas.

“The more hands, the more you get done,” said Katie. She and Vicky are veteran members of the Odyssey team, having four years under their belts.

“Together, everyone achieves more,” Elliot added.

Despite being down one member at regionals — Elliot was unable to attend — the team prevailed and was also awarded the Ranatra Fusca Award. This is given to the team that demonstrates exceptional creativity.

East Middle received the award based on the props used by Sydney to communicate.

“It looked like the odds were stacked against them,” said team coach Gretta Hanson about the regional competition, adding, “These kids proved that hard work and perseverance pays off.”

email: kmcdowell@beenews.com

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