On March 9th, I was very proud to watch as kids from our elementary school participated in the competition Odyssey of the Mind. It was my first year to attend as a parent and my first year of being a coach.
It is a little bit stressful to coach a team of kids (all under 8 years old) in designing and building a problem answer. Our problem was to create a museum concept and then build and present three exhibits explaining the theme of the museum. The problem definition stated it best as the first sentence of the directions was “Children can see the extraordinary in the ordinary.” This was proved over and over during the course of our work.
Starting in January, we met as a team at least once a week. Every meeting started with food because hungry kids are distracted kids. Then, we would have our team cheer to build our energy up for the hard work. As part of our cheer, each team member had a chance to do their special move. It was exciting to see what they came up with each week. A simple cartwheel turned into team excitement and cheers.
They worked well together because conflict was ordinary but solution was extraordinary. The best was when they questioned each other – they did not tiptoe around the subject – they just asked “Why did you make that ugly?” or “Why can’t you keep the theme?” Often the explanation from one kid would get a shrug from the others and an “Okay, if that’s what you think.” After 6 practices we had a 5 minute cheer followed by a race because we changed the theme (after everyone agreed they didn’t want to stay with the original theme) and everyone was super excited by the new theme.
It was difficult to coordinate practice schedules but looking back, it was all worth it. The kids were so proud of themselves after the presentation. We tried and we did it.