My Kids…Kind Of

*Note: This is a long post, but seriously awesome.  With some great pics involved too.  Like a pictoral novel.

My second year of teaching, I agreed to co-coach an Odyssey of the Mind team at my school.  It was a great experience seeing what the program was all about and seeing the high bar Unionville tends to set when it comes to the long-term problems.

For those who aren’t familiar with Odyssey of the Mind, it is a program that encourages the solving of creative problems.  Teams are given several problems to choose from (there is at least one vehicle problem each year and some high profile businesses sponsor problems sometimes – NASA did one this year).  Problems can be based on building something, using literary knowledge, solving an environmental problem, or any other number of possibilities.  Teams bring their completed solution to regional and state competitions before the world competition.

My first year I did a vehicle problem.  I worked with a great teacher who became a friend and mentor – Char Heasty.  We had to create a car that completed 4 sports related tasks.  Our car ended up doing some tennis, soccer, paintball and shuffleboard.  The problem was titled Road Rally and I think they ended up with the concept of a robbery at a chicken wing place.  Haha.  They ended up in fourth at regionals.  My second year I coached with Char and the fabulous LG (formerly known as LB).  That was a great experience.  Our problem was entitled Superstition and the kids had to present a solution that showcased 3 actual superstitions as well as a team-made superstition and they also had to incorporate a comical narrator, some kind of transformation of a prop, and a character/costume that involved 2 people.  We ended up going with a cruise ship theme and the kids dealt with superstition drama on the high seas.  Their superstitions they used included “It’s good luck if a bird poops on you.”  “Lucky number 7.”  “If you turn around 3 times counterclockwise it’s bad luck.”  I think there may have been one more.  Their team made superstition was “If you find a pirahna’s tooth it’s good luck.”  Something like that.  They did really well and we got 2nd at Regionals and 3rd at States.

This year, Char is gone (moved to Florida) and LG is busy being a married lady now.  🙂  I agreed to not only coach a team, but to do a vehicle problem.  The latter of which is hilarious in and of itself because I am nowhere near mechanically inclined to understand the first thing about putting together a car.  Thank the Lord for awesome parents and co-coaches!  This problem was sponsored by NASA and called “Nature Trail’r”.  Here is the synopsis: This problem requires teams to design, build and drive a human-powered vehicle and camper that will go on a camping trip. When the vehicle arrives at the Campground, the camper will be disconnected and the vehicle will travel on a team-created Nature Trail. On the Nature Trail, the vehicle will overcome an obstacle, clean up the environment, encounter wildlife, and undergo a repair. The performance will include a character that is in or near the camper that explains the experience as part of its role.  Cost Limit: $145

I have got to say that I got THE BEST TEAM EVER.  I really enjoyed my afternoons with the kids on my team.  They are so creative!  Instead of going with the common ideas of a nature trail, camping and a literal trailer, they went in a different direction.  The setting is the fairytale section of the library.  Rumpelstiltskin is giving a news report with The Mirror from Snow White when  he hears a worm has stolen “Happily Ever After” from some of their stories (Hansel and Gretel, The Three Blind Mice, Charlotte’s Web and Rapunzel – with some Sleeping Beauty, Snow White and The Three Little Pigs thrown in there too).  Rapunzel (quite a blond in this story, by the way) is on journey to get the words back in the team created vehicle, aided by GPS (who actually drives the vehicle – Rapunzel steers).  The worm is after her (trailer) and eventually Porky (the third, SMART little pig) helps keep him at bay while Rapunzel goes on the hunt for “Happily Ever After” on the trail (through different books).  She comes upon Hansel from Hansel and Gretel and has the car clean up the breadcrumbs.  She then runs away from the Three Blind Mice (as she states, she is NOT an exterminator) so Ray-Punzel (her third cousin on her dad’s side twice removed) who is a big gangsta and he throws cheese at the mice and topples Charlotte’s web.  Rapunzel comes back into the picture to finish the journey but comes upon her own story!  The worm took her Prince’s memory when he took “happily ever after”.  The car breaks down and the prince has to yank her extensions out to fix it.  She then makes it back to the worm and pulls “happily ever after” back out.

I absolutely LOVED their concept, story, all of it.  They were so motivated and fun!  It was a joy to see their minds working, have them encourage each other and be excited about it all.  I loved going on Saturdays to work with them and I am seriously in withdrawal. As competition grew closer, they performed for the school and we were doing last minute additions and repairs.  We were getting worried about being under the 8 minute mark (all performances have a time limit of 8 minutes).  That day, they did it!  I was so incredibly proud of them and their team work as they performed for the school and the day of competition at Wingate.  Their set up at Wingate was a bit different than we’d practiced and they worked together to figure out how they needed to set things up.  What an awesome moment it was to see them point and talk it out!!  Communication!  They set it up in the opposite direction than we’d practiced (same order of events, just props/backdrops in a different place) and we got a bit nervous, but they were AWESOME.  I was so proud of them.  They did a phenomenal job.  I actually have a friend who is also a Spanish teacher at another elementary school who was judging their problem.  He spoke to me later in the day and told me that they thought our kids were phenomenal and they loved talking to them.  When we got their scores, I couldn’t believe it – I was like a proud mama bear.  They get up to 200 points on their long-term and they got a 193.1!! That’s the highest raw score our art teacher (who kind of head up OM at the school) had ever heard of, much less for a vehicle problem.  They were thrilled when we told them at lunch after their had their spontaneous (similar to a long-term problem, but it’s something verbal or a building problem that is quicker to solve in 10 min or so).  I owe a lot of what happened this year as I took on the “head coach” position for the first time to Char.  She taught me a lot, gave a lot of insight and prepared me well!

We went into the awards ceremony excited and up came our problem and…we got third.  I know they were a little let down by that because of such a high long-term score, but when I talked to them later, we talked about the fact that you just never know what spontaneous is going to do to your score or what you’ll get.  It can make or break you.  When I got to look at the other scores from teams in our division, I saw there was only a 2 point difference between us and second place.  Wow!  But, they hands down WON the long term. I told them how proud of them I was and that they had nothing to be ashamed of – the thing they worked the hardest and longest on, they were the BEST at. That is an accomplishment.  Plus this was the first year that ALL teams placed at Unionville! That was a great day.  Great kids, great performance, great weather, great parents, great coaches.

I’m really sad it’s over and it’s kind of funny that I’m grasping at straws to find ways to spend more time with them!  I’m telling you, I’m seriously sappy over it almost to the point of a tear or two of sadness.  I love the opportunity to create a different, special bond with these kids in a different situation outside of teaching them Spanish.  I am going to miss my three going on to middle school, but look forward to possibly working with the others again in the future.  I’m also excited that I get to go for pizza and bowling with all of them in a couple weeks to celebrate.

So, here are my kids. (By the way, you can click on all of the pictures to see a larger version.)

I had each of them write a bio about their character and then took a picture of them in costume a few days before competition.  They were hilarious.  Here are a few pics.  I can’t find the bios right now.

The lovely Rapunzel, a diva heading to her photo shoot with Fairy Tale Scene

(This girl who played her is a smart one – she was phenomenal with the acting and script writing.  She had just the right tone in her voice as she performed – it was hilarious.  I love her wit!)

The sometimes trusty GPS who tells Rapunzel when to go to the reft or the light.

(This kid worked so hard on our vehicle – I was so proud of the work he did.  He’s a hilarious, nice kid.  He’ll be one seriously awesome adult when he grows up.  I’m really going to miss him.  Plus he had the most awesome parents ever and a great costume!  The back and the hat are genius – there were even flashing lights involved.)

Ray-Punzel, Rapunzel’s gangsta cousin on her father’s side three times removed (So funny watching this kid pretend to be a gangster – he’s a good kid and so very smart.)

The Prince, also the mover of the Three Blind Mice (Smart kid with a lot to offer – he even learned to sew his own costume!)

Porky, the third SMART little pig who was our campground character/field reporter (What a helpful girl – always ready to do something and keep us on the right track.)

The Mirror, the fairest of them all from Snow White (Sweet little Mirror – couldn’t have asked for a more kind, helpful girl to be on my team.)

Hansel/Rumpelstiltskin/Charlotte – aka, the jack of all trades (She made such a great team captain- knowledgeable and she took on three different roles in eight minutes.  This was her Hansel costume.  The Rumpel and Charlotte costumes involved simply putting something on over the Hansel shirt.)

Third place 🙂  (Surprise to many – even the judges, but you never know what’ll happen depending on spontaneous!)

Yep.  I love these kids.

I have video of their performance if you want to see it…  Just email or comment.

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