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Odyssey of the Mind

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Is anyone familiar with Odyssey of the Mind?  How does it work in your school?  Is membership by invitation only?

Just curious, really, but I was making a passing mention in a manuscript and then didn't want to get it wrong.

From my own memory, I know I started hearing about it at school--probably about 8th grade--but I never went.  I had a high IQ and was in all the honors-type classes, but I never had all As or anything--I wasn't that kind of kid.  I feel like I must not have made some sort of cut-off or something because I don't even remember getting an invitation to OotM, or a chance to "try out" or test in or whatever one does.  I had a good friend who was in the program and she went on through all those gifted programs until she finally went to the special Science & Math school in our state and on to a great college.  I was "gifted" in creative areas, but sadly, I guess nobody thought I had any kind of science gift.  I'm beginning to think they went by grades or by teacher recommendation. ?

I haven't heard much about this program for years, but I have heard people at my daughter's old school talk about stuff like "Science Olympiad" which may be the same kind of program (I don't know--we weren't invited to that, either!).

#1 - May 28, 2012, 10:38 AM

A colleague of mine had his son go through it -- I got the impression that it was extremely competitive and time consuming. For the kids, too!
#2 - May 28, 2012, 10:55 AM

Well, that falls in with what I'm thinking.  I feel a little sad about this, but if something was time-consuming or required extra rides to places and extra funds (like for a field trip) then my parents just ruled it right out.  Even supposing I had qualified for whatever it was, I was the youngest of four and they weren't into carting us around for lessons and such.  They barely knew what I was up to, school-wise, unlike the super-involved parents of my various school friends.

I know, waahh, waahh.  Someone breakout that sad violin emoticon. 
#3 - May 28, 2012, 11:01 AM

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My brother was invited (in 5th grade, if memory serves), but my parents couldn't afford the fees (which were mostly for travel and competition needs).
#4 - May 28, 2012, 12:08 PM
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I don't really get why everything has to be so structured and competitive and be micro-managed by parents. Give kids sandlots and libraries and let them make their own fun. /rant
#5 - May 28, 2012, 12:16 PM

Thanks for the info--good to know there's an invitation. That's what I wrote in my ms., but I didn't want to assume.
#6 - May 28, 2012, 01:02 PM

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*jumps up and down, raising hand* I did Odyssey of the Mind as a kid!   :alce
I did it in upper elementary/middle school for a few years, I don't remember exactly when. (Around grade 6.) I wasn't too serious about it, but I did prepare with a team and go to the first round of competition, so ask away!
Oh, and it was never invitation-only within the school - meaning, you don't have to "try out" like you would for a sports team or a drama production. That wasn't the attitude with OM. Anyone can join. I mean, you do have to have a certain number of people on your team to compete, but they basically just took everyone who showed a commitment (as in, they won't drop out the week before the competition) and asked us to split into teams of the right size. Anyone who couldn't commit the time could still attend the meetings and do the practice problems. That's the sense I got of teams at other schools, too. If there's an invitation, maybe it has to do with your school's team/teams being invited to compete? Even that doesn't ring a bell, but maybe that's because I was 11 and I wasn't the one in charge of that.  :biggrin:
Here's the Odyssey of the Mind website. You'll find a lot of great info here, too:

Oh, and I don't know about Science Olympiad. I know that Math Olympiad is basically math team. I think Science Olympiad is kind of like a quiz bowl type thing for science. Try googling it if you're curious.
#7 - May 28, 2012, 01:07 PM

Thanks!  I don't need to really know much about it (I'd looked up the website earlier)--it's not part of the story, really.  I just had the MC make a passing mention (upon considering the current sciencey situation in the plot) that she had never been to Odyssey of the Mind--had never even been invited.

If it's not invite-only at some schools, it's probably better that I just leave out the mention or make up a new non-existant gifted or science program my MC has never been invited to. 

Thanks again!
#8 - May 28, 2012, 01:49 PM

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My husband was an OM coach about ten years ago. Anyone could join, and it did not cost anything except for thr budget for the project. (Limited to 99$) His team built a fabulous robot, but they lost at the local competition. The robot is still in the garage. It was extremely time consuming. He nor the parents were allowed to help with the project. During the construction of the robot, parents were not allowed.

I was really amazed at what the kids came up with. I believe they were in 6th grade.
#9 - May 28, 2012, 01:52 PM
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I think how the team is chosen is up to the individual schools. Some let you sign up, but in others you have to be invited. You might want an imaginary program anyway. I know in this area kids wouldn't know what OM is because they do a similar program, but it's called DI (Destination Imagination).
#10 - May 28, 2012, 02:35 PM

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Ohh..... I've been a DI coach. By default. Sorta. It was a fiasco. Adults who were supposed to be in charge bailing was only the start. I didn't realize OM was something similar... but after my experience, I'm sure it must vary massively from place to place, school to school, depending on who's involved and what kind of support/commmunication/interest they have.

That said, it could have been ultra cool and I would have LOVED to be in something like that when I was in school. If it existed back in those dinosaur years, I didn't hear about it.
#11 - May 28, 2012, 06:28 PM
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I'm very involved in Odyssey; been a coach for 7 years. My oldes did it one year, didn't like it much. Middle kid has done it 6 years - she just got back from World's, and youngest has done it 5 years.

In the U.S., there are some exceptions where kids have to be invited formally because of some gifted thing, but that is rare. Most schools you just sign up. BUT the trick is that you have to have a coach, and it's rather time-consuming for a coach because all of the meetings and building of sets is done at your house, and it takes up a lot of space for months. Coach is almost always a parent. Max of 7 kids can be on a team. So sometimes a coach/kid will invite their friends to form a team, and once there are 7 kids, that team is full.

So you could say there wasn't room on any of the teams.

Probably more info that you want, but: the unique thing about OM is that kids do everything, from idea generation to all building, etc. A coach can't even give an opinion. You can give them general instruction in how to use tools, but you can't actually hammer a single nail that goes into their set, or even suggest that nails might be a better way than glue of attaching the two pieces of wood they are trying to attach. So while it is structured, it's student led. It's also not too expensive. A team is allowed to spend a max of about $120, so that's about $20 per kid. If the team goes on to state competition (usually about one out of 5 do) then there's the travel expense. teams usually start meeting in October and compete in March, but they can sign up as late as early January.

If you need any specific info, let me know.
#12 - May 28, 2012, 06:59 PM

Destination Imagination works exactly the same way (if I recall, someone told me that they had been the same organization at one point and then split off into two competing groups??) In our area, in Southern California, I'm not aware of any schools doing OM, but DI is huge (I've been a team manager for several years.) Schools set their own guidelines for teams. At our elementary school, it was specifically part of the gifted program, but at many other schools it was open to whoever was interested. You can also have a team that's not affiliated with a school. The cost wasn't huge--it turned out to be about $100 per team member this year, and given that they met for more than five months, that's a fairly good value, particularly given the expense of sports and many other programs.
#13 - May 28, 2012, 08:27 PM

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I was an OM coach for two years, had state champion teams both years and went to World finals one year. I think all of the info you have above is fairly accurate but I want to add that it does vary GREATLY from school to school and state to state. Our state has a small program. It is not as competitive across the state, so fewer kids have heard of it, so it is not as competitive within the school either. Anyone could try out for our team, but as mentioned, there are only 7 slots per team and each new team needs a different coach, so the students with the greatest ability to think outside of the box are chosen. They do not have to be considered gifted. In our school everyone was invited to try out through announcements and newsletters. Students did have to have a letter of teacher recommendation, but they could choose which teacher to ask. A teacher did not have to recommend them in order for them to try out. It is very time consuming!
#14 - May 29, 2012, 06:41 AM
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I've dropped the mention of this program for my ms., as it wasn't all that important to the story.  But thanks, everyone, for your input!
#15 - May 29, 2012, 07:41 AM


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