Daniel Boone teams compete against the world in Odyssey of the Mind; World Finals held at Iowa State University

Submitted
Submitted Seventh graders from Daniel Boone Middle School, Members: Hannah Brown, Taylor Eisenhuth, David Eurillo, Emma Hartman, Chris Surkosky, Zoe Thompson, Rachel Woomer. Coaches Fran Thompson and Steph Woomer. This is the team's fifth year together.

Daniel Boone’s leading Odyssey of the Mind team will make their second appearance at the World Finals later this month, with their rendition “What does the turkey say?”

Eleven Daniel Boone School District Odyssey of the Mind teams participated at the Regional Competitions held at Millersville University on Saturday, March 15. Nine of those teams received outstanding recognition, and four teams are advancing to the Pennsylvania State level. But one is returning to the World Finals held at Iowa State University May 28 to 31.

“It’s a problem solving academic experience,” Chris Surkosky, 13, said, summing up Odyssey of the Mind with some clean terminology that impressed his teammates.

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The Odyssey team consists of seventh graders David Eurillo, 13; Chris Surkosky, 13; Rachel Woomer, 13; Zoe Thompson, 13; Hannah Brown, 13; Emma Hartman, 12; and Taylor Eisenhuth, and have been working together for the past five years. Together, their configuration is just one of two teams ever to make World Finals in the district. This is the second year the students have made it to the World Final competition. The students were first introduced to Odyssey of the Mind in their third grade math class. Each of them responded to an information sheet passed out during math, formed a team and the creative thinking began.

Working together in the competition year after year has provided to be an advantage.

“We knew what to expect,” Hartman said. After having gone to World Finals in their third year, and making the state competition their second year, the team feels prepared.

“We went before so we have more confidence,” Woomer said, about what it takes to succeed.

There are three divisions of teams broken by grades; K - 5th grade; 6th to 8th grade; and 9th to 12th grade. The team competed against 13 teams at the state level, and took the place by storm, coming in first. The top two teams go on to compete in the World Competition.

“We met people from Switzerland and China,” Brown recalled about the last World Competition. The team made friends with a group of students from Switzerland and even taught them the hip how to shuffle dance move.

Participating in this unique competition allows each of the students to tap into their unknown talents, expanding their ability over a variety of subjects.

The competition has a few different elements, the first being a long-term project. The projects are a year-long commitment, as the students begin in October, working to solve the problem, plan their skit and start building. “We have a good team,” Woomer said.

Five long-term problem synopsises are presented, in which the team must choose one to tackle with their imaginations.

Their chosen synopsis,“It’s How We Rule,” asks the team to pair a King’s decree to an actual historical event. The students, judged on humor, wrote their own spin-off of Ylvis’ “The Fox” with a “What Does the Turkey Say” and tie in Queen Elizabeth to their turkey farmer skit.

At the competitions, they present their long-term problem, but also must solve a spontaneous problem.

“It helps you think on the spot,” Eurillo said. When faced with a problem outside of Odyssey that may stump her, Hartman says she thinks: “What would I do if it was spontaneous?”

At one of the Odyssey events, an Olympic luger spoke to them about is participating in the annual competitions.

The Daniel Boone team was inspired by how the Olympian grew from his experience throughout school. “Odyssey helped him in life,” Woomer said.

“It teaches us to be original, creative and independent,” Brown said.

“The only place that makes me smile,” Eurillo said about Odyssey. “It’s so fun.”

Eurillo, Eisenhuth and Brown participate in plays at school, but performing was not something that came naturally for everyone on the team. Odyssey of the Mind has instilled confidence for those students originally uncomfortable with public presentations. “It’s fun and it helps us academically,” Surkosky said.

For Woomer, she now feels comfortable speaking during class presentations, and is making progress seen by her coach and mom. “I’ve really seen my daughter grow,” Steph Woomer said.

“A lot of the judges can see the teamwork [in our act] which for the long-term is really good,” Rachel Woomer said.

“We’re like family. We all know how each other act, we know each other too well,” Brown said.

Having the same teammates for the past five years bonded the group, and supplies a solid base to know each other’s strengths and weaknesses.

Parents of children on the team, Steph Woomer and Fran Thompson have been coaching the team together the past four years.

Woomer has been a coach since the team formed, and likes how the program ignites creative thinking.

“Everything has to be done by the kids,” Woomer said. “They have to figure out what to do with no outside assistance.”

“We learned [to operate] power tools this year,” Thompson said. Together, with limited adult assistance, re-purposed their past set to build a barn and castle for the Odyssey skit. “The kids have to un-do everything, and rebuild,” Woomer said. “Things might need to be repainted.” As coaches, Woomer and Thompson are able to guide the students, and ask them questions, but literally all of the work must be done by the team.

While the World Finals alternate between college campuses, the seventh grade team seem to be destined for Iowa. As fifth graders, the competition was also held in Iowa.

Brown and her parents drove the equipment out.

While the school district is paying for the fee, and providing a stipend for food, the team must raise money for transportation to the competition themselves.

If you would like to make a contribution to help the team with fundraising their trip to Iowa, contact Steph Woomer at 610-689-8161.

About the Author

Emily Thiel

Emily Thiel is the editor of The Southern Berks News and is the Community Engagement Editor for Berks-Mont Newspapers. Emily joined Berks-Mont in March 2013. She graduated from Kutztown University in 2011 with a degree in English with a concentration in Cultural and Media Studies. Emily is a native of Allentown, Pa. Reach the author at ethiel@berksmontnews.com or follow Emily on Twitter: @sthrnberksnews.