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San Carlos Students Compete at State Level; 'Odyssey of the Mind' Teams Travel to Orlando April 13
FORT MYERS, FL - For some of the students at San Carlos Park Elementary School, the next three weeks will mean a lot of extra work. Both of the school’s “Odyssey of the Mind” teams recently won third place regionally in their divisions and now the students will compete at the state level on April 13 in Orlando.
“Odyssey of the Mind is a voluntary program in which students are given a long-term problem to solve and perform for competition, as well as a spontaneous problem the day of competition,” said Amy Oxendine, communication major from Fort Myers at Florida Gulf Coast University and a team coach for three years.
Professor of communication Maria Roca began coaching kindergarteners and first graders in 1997 when FGCU opened. Now the coaching squad works with a talented third and fourth grade team in Division I. “In recent years I got FGCU students involved with me because I thought the Odyssey of the Mind program offered some exciting opportunities for them for service.”
Jamie Withrow, communication senior from Lehigh, brings theater experience to the coaching squad. While the service learning hours are an excellent benefit, Withrow says nothing replaces the excitement of seeing the girls come up with their own creative ideas and actually complete the problem. “As I watched them perform in front of their school and at regional competition, I made a remark to Amy and Dr. Roca that I felt like a nervous mother.”
Members of the team chose “Classics…Center Stage,” a story from a designated problem list that the team must make into an eight-minute play. The competitors follow guidelines, such as having a host to introduce the play, a 30-second dance, a scene change and including another character from a different work on the designated list.
“The most unique thing about Odyssey of the Mind is that the team members do everything by themselves. This includes coming up with the ideas for the play, determining who will play which parts, writing the script, making the entire set, making their costumes, and even simple things like putting on their own make-up when needed or fixing their own hair,” Oxendine said. “The girls were full of ideas and determination to make it to the state competition. They worked as a team, even though sometimes it was rough, and put together a performance that included each team member’s ideas. It has been fun to watch their ideas grow and mature each year.”
Even with the service learning hours they earn, Roca says the two student coaches had no idea just how many hours of hard work the program would require of them.
Withrow sees something other than hard work. “The greatest experience is when we walk into San Carlos Park Elementary and those girls’ faces light up as they tell stories about their day. Or when a couple of them have a fight, we are able to solve it and move on. It’s kind of like being a big sister to these girls for a couple hours of the day and it was worthwhile to see the joy on their faces as all their work paid off and they were moving on to state.”
For more information about Odyssey of the Mind, contact Roca at (941) 590-7185.