By Denise Richardson
The Daily Star
---- — Seven pupils at Sidney Elementary School spent hours during the past six weeks creating and rehearsing a skit for a competition.
Coach Marisa Orezzoli said she reminded the youngsters that the goal was “to have fun,” no matter what the outcome. Win or lose, she told them, the project would conclude with a pizza and ice cream party.
That party may be held later this week, Orezzoli said, and the youngsters, who won first place Saturday in the Division I contest titled “It’s How You Look At It” of the regional Odyssey of the Mind 2013, will go on to the state level competition next month.
“Our whole team is excited,” Orezzoli said.
The New York Region 13 Competition on Saturday was for schools in the Otsego Northern Catskills and the Delaware Chenango Madison Otsego Boards of Cooperative Education districts. More than 325 students from 15 schools or districts were signed up to participate in the event at the Robert W. Harrold Campus of the DCMO BOCES in Masonville.
The first-place winners are eligible to go to the state level competition at Binghamton University on March 23. Advancing teams may attend the annual World Finals competition at Michigan State University from May 22 to 25.
On Saturday, teams presented in divisions based on age, and those groups that competed were judged on their solution to the problem and style, plus a spontaneous component.
Odyssey of the Minds encourages students to tap into their imaginations and creative abilities to solve problems. The benefits of participating include learning team-building skills, development of creative thinking and elevated interest in regular classroom curricula, according to a brochure about the program.
“It’s How You Look At It,” listed as Problem 5, required students to create and present a humorous performance with two characters who act naturally to each other but seem odd to others around them. Organizers said 20 teams signed up for Problem 5, making it a popular option.
Orezzoli said she and her husband, James, helped with an OM team last year and decided to take on a team this year. Four of the seven pupils hadn’t competed in an OM event, which made Saturday’s divisional first place all the more exciting, she said. The team’s results were among the last to be announced, she said, and pupils were nervous about the outcome.
“We were really shocked and surprised,” Orezzoli said. “We got first — that’s so great. … I got teary-eyed.”
The Sidney Elementary School team included Elizabeth Bargher, Anna Dewey, Parker Hinkley, Anthony Morris, Ayden and James Orezzoli and Payton Rosen. The pupils are in first through fourth grades.
Besides finding creative and imaginative avenues to solve the problem, the pupils also learned about cooperating and putting together a skit, she said.
“They listened to each other,” Orezzoli said. “They were able to come together.”
Ayden Orezzoli, 7, her son, said he enjoyed his role as a “fruit dog” in the skit that took place in the “Candy Kingdom.” He had participated in OM projects before but this year was his first time competing, and he said winning first place was “great.”
Stacie Haynes, BOCES coordinator of enrichment services and director of the Regional OM, said among the goals of the event is to offer a positive stage for students. Coaches are to be “hands-off” in the solution-finding process, she said.
“It’s really empowering to students” Haynes said. Though the format is competitive, judges are trained to find reasons to award points, not penalize students, she said, and students are to leave the event having had an “awesome experience.”
“There are so many wonderful things,” Haynes said.
“It’s really a feel good program.”
Other first-place teams were:
• Problem 1 — Pet Project: Sherburne-Earlville in Division 1; Holy Family in Division 2; and Laurens Central School in Division 3.
• Problem 2 — The Email Must Go Through: Holy Family in Division 1; Sherburne-Earlville in Division 2; and Hunter-Tannersville in Division 3.
• Problem 3 — ARTchitecture: The Musical: Greene Intermediate School in Division 1; Sidney Middle School in Division 2; and Sherburne-Earlville High School in Division 3.
• Problem 4 — Tumble-Wood: Holy Family in Division 1 and Division 2.
• Problem 5 — It’s How You Look At It: Sidney Elementary in Division 1; Sherburne-Earlville Middle School in Division 2; and Greene Central Middle High School in Division 3.