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Odyssey of the Mind teaches students to solve more than just science problems

Grand Canyon School elementary art teacher Rebecca Markstein and Odyssey of the Mind coordinator Peg Lyle with Division 1 team Odyssey of the Mind team prior to the COVID-19 school closures. (Veronica R. Tierney/WGCN)

Grand Canyon School elementary art teacher Rebecca Markstein and Odyssey of the Mind coordinator Peg Lyle with Division 1 team Odyssey of the Mind team prior to the COVID-19 school closures. (Veronica R. Tierney/WGCN)

GRAND CANYON, Ariz. — Through the years, problem solving has piqued the interest of many Grand Canyon students, so much so the school has set records for the largest attendance to Odyssey of the Mind (OM) regional competition from Northern Arizona.

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Drawing a picture of a squid on the Mary Celeste getting attached by a wave, Alexandria Morales said, “We don’t know what happened but we’re trying to make up what we think and try to make it creative and cool.” (Veronica R. Tierney/WGCN)

The international creative problem solving competition, which was held in Phoenix, is a creative program ranging from kindergarten through college. Students worked on teams to solve problems creatively. This year’s competition drew 24 enthusiastic Grand Canyon students (referred to as Odyssey Angels) who excitedly brought home awards Feb. 29.

“Adults are on hand only to facilitate,” said Odyssey of the Mind Coordinator and Grand Canyon School teacher Peg Lyle. “With an array of challenging problems, strict guidelines, a budget and adult supervision, students competed at different levels and division’s according to their age and grades.”

Returning home with a first place award in Division 2 was coach Anna Snider’s group comprised of Mateusz Drumm, Amelia Walls, Abby Rabon, Norah Hawkins, Evan Snyder and Kaden Chavez.

“I really liked building all the props and sets with my group,” Synder said, prior to the COVID-19 school closures at Grand Canyon School.

Although the team did not have a name per say….his suggestion was the Lollipop Billionaires.

Amelia Walls said her favorite part of Odyssey of the Mind was, “being part of the team and spending time with friends coming up with creative ideas.”

Others, including parent Kate Densmore said her daughter loved being a part of Odyssey of the Mind.

“This was my daughter, Ella’s first year participating in Odyssey of the Mind, and she absolutely loved it,” she said. “I really appreciated how she was able to use her creative thinking skills while learning to work with a group. Ella says she doesn’t have a favorite part, because she loved it all so much.”

Densmore’s daughter competed in Division 1 and won third place.

The program has been life changing for some students.

“This program opens student’s eyes to seeing outside of the box,” Lyle said. “I have a student who has participated in Odyssey of the Mind and has been changed ever since. This student now has a sense of accomplishment and is doing better in academic and their grades have gone up.”

Katie Morris and her husband Jason, have volunteered for Odyssey of the Mind since 2010 and said the program helps students with more than just problem solving in a school setting.

“All our three children have participated in Odyssey of the Mind,” she said. “We really believe in the program as it tackles problem solving and creativity all rolled into one. It’s a good way to teach children to prepare for life, work in teams, learn to have mutual respect for one another and help them to prepare for the next generation of citizens.”

While the Morris family no longer has children participating, they continue to volunteer as coaches for the program.

“This program has been very successful at our school,” said Lori Rommel, dean of students at Grand Canyon School. “We are thankful for all the teachers and parents who have worked so hard to support it.”

A primary group, grade kindergarten through second grade also attended the regional competition this year.

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