odyssey-of-the-mind-photoBy Jann Wiswall

It’s been a long and successful journey for the six ECS 11th and 12th grade students and their coaches who took their Odyssey of the Mind skit on the road to Michigan State University last weekend to compete in the program’s World Finals.

For every team member, the journey began five or even 10 years ago when they first participated in the OM program at ECS.

“Getting to finals is what we’ve been striving for all these years,” says Izzy Brown, who started OM in the second grade.

The ECS team, composed of seniors Eric Oliverio and Patrick Snyder and juniors Isabella Brown, McKenzie Robinson, Emily Timkey and Chris Wojtowicz, was coached by Caitlyn Keller and assistant coach Megan Westfall, another junior. They created a humorous performance that addressed a problem called “It’s How You Look at It.”

Teams were instructed to show how a character acts “normally” in his/her own environment, but “oddly” in another character’s setting, and vice versa. The performance had to include a scene change and a “meter” that indicates the degree of normal/odd behavior displayed.

The team’s performance featured an elderly man in a nursing home and a nurse. The man (played by Snyder) considers himself to be very hip, which makes him “odd” to the nurse (played by Wojtowicz)  in the nursing home setting, but when the nurse follows him outside of the home to visit with some “cool kids,” he’s the one who’s odd or out of place.

ECS performed the skit in front of a dozen judges at the competition. They were one of 55 teams competing for top honors on this problem in their age group and took 21st place. Thousands of teams from throughout the U.S. and 25 other countries participated in all.

“They had the best performance we’ve seen in all these months and months of practice,” said Colleen Bower, the 2012-13 OM coordinator and a kindergarten teacher at ECS.

Keller added, “They weren’t nervous at all. They were ready. And they had the judges and the audience laughing. What more could you ask?”

The three-day event in Michigan was a whirlwind of activity, the students agreed. Pat Snyder was selected by the team to represent the school in the opening ceremony, which was a huge production that seemed like the opening of the Olympics, Snyder observed.

There were lots of opportunities to meet students from all over the country and the world, and everyone spent a lot of time trading state/country pins as keepsakes. The team worked the New York booth at the Creativity Festival, attended the Float and Banner Parade and had fun at a teen party with hundreds of other kids. Another highlight was that they not only met OM founder “Dr. Sam” Micklus, but he watched several performances with them and told them about how he got OM started.

“The whole event was huge and a little overwhelming,” said Brown, and the others agreed.

“The MSU campus is bigger than all of Ellicottville,” marveled Oliverio.

Overall, the students agree that OM has been an important part of their education at ECS. For Robinson, it has been a “life-changing” experience.

The creative problem they addressed, “It’s How You Look at It,” was not just a skit to these six students. They really learned from it. Meeting people from all over the world taught them firsthand that people’s perspectives change depending on where they are.

“Everyone’s unique,” said Robinson, “but they’re also much the same. Circumstances are everything.”

“This was the perfect problem for this group,” said Bower. “They expressed it beautifully in their skit and they’ve grown as people as a result of what they’ve learned.”