Odyssey of the Mind Encourages Creativity and Improv


Odyssey of The Mind


    Odyssey of the Mind (OtM) is a program that is full of self-selected self-starters who come together to create a skit incorporating their inventive creation. “Beyond the box” is a recurring motto throughout the activity, as they’re supposed to create a performance based on their invention. On March 24, our very own Benicia High freshmen won in the Regional OtM competition at UC Riverside, earning them a spot at the States in the same UC location. They unfortunately didn’t win States but it was an honor. If they had won they would’ve taken place at Iowa State University, in the 39th World Finals.

    It is an honor, a true virtue, that our 9th graders hold, as they won Regionals from 750 regional teams in California. Lynn Larsen, the California OtM State Director, states participants have to a) write an original script, b) create materials necessary for script through “costumes, props, scenery, and technical  and elements”, to c) all the while creatively solve a creative problem assigned to your team.

    We were able to interview one of the regional finalists freshman, Michael Cerna (9).

So what is Odyssey of the Mind?

    “There are five problems, all technical and technology-related. We’re given a rubric where we are supposed to write our own script, create costumes, and build a set. Eight minutes is the max time limit.”

When did the participants meet?

    “Well we got together around October, but actually received invitations May, and given prompts. We met once a week in the beginning but meets frequented weekly towards the middle to perfect our skit routine. So we’re ready to go for State Finals.”

We heard about Regional Win down at Riverside UC down in SoCal. What did the skit consist of?

    “Our team thought of this hangout place in space, which involved a treasure and map. We have a board game with people playing it, portrayed by shadow puppets. We had a narrator by Blake, breaking the 4th wall by explaining exactly what was happening.”

What materials did you need?

    “Styrofoam, big sheets of copy paper, a tub of water, where we dipped the paper into water and used swirls of color to create the background of the space hangout place. It reminded one of my teammates of a Turkish marble painting, since he’s from Turkey.”

What else did OtM consist of?

    “They have you go to a judge’s room where they present a long-term, short-term, and spontaneous prompt. Long-term is hands-on, short-term is verbal, and spontaneous is verbal-hands on. Long-term involves some sort of structure involved with limits, short-term with a creative prompt and a creative answer, and spontaneous requires usage of materials and verbal introduction of the project.”

Did you have prior experience, any stage fright?

    “I started in fifth grade. In eighth grade, our team won 1st place in the SF region in the whole of California, and we won 2nd place advanced world finals. We even got on the news. I didn’t have stage fright because we’d always rehearse. I gain confidence from being part of activities like Improv this year, and drama back in middle school. I was fortunate enough to be the lead in my eighth grade play, and participate in two plays in 7th grade.”

From being in the OtM program for six years, what have you learned? Would you recommend it if someone is doubtful of taking it?

    “I learned not to procrastinate. And If you’re doubtful but want to try it, you should. You can be creative. But it’s not for everyone and that’s fine.”

Congratulations again to BHS Freshmen’s win at the OtM Regionals.

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