June 1, 2016 Edition

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OM trip is
of a lifetime

Gretchen Hunt

When my son asked me if I would coach his Odyssey of the Mind team this past school year, I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

What a journey it became! First, it was a journey to help the students transition from some guidelines on a sheet of paper to a successful competition season.

For those who are not familiar with OM, it is a creativity-based program, where the projects/performances must be solely the work of the students. Perhaps my biggest challenge was keeping my mouth shut and letting the kids figure things out for themselves.

But they did! They placed first at regional competition and second at state to advance to the world finals. And then, another amazing journey began!

We left last Tuesday, May 24, for Iowa State University with a police and fire escort out of the Greene County Tech parking lot in a big yellow bus, along with two other GCT teams.

I had no idea what an overwhelming and exciting experience we were in for. We arrived in Ames that evening and quickly discovered just how huge the campus was, as it took us several hours to locate where all our props had to be dropped off, where we would be staying and where we would be eating.

Having missed our dinnertime, we ate a 10 p.m. supper at a little community center and then settled in for the week. We quickly began to figure out the secrets to the CyRide bus service and shortcuts from one place to another, but were still amazed that we had to change buses to get from where we were staying to where we were eating. An additional 30 minutes had to be figured in to allow for any delays when trying to get to a performance, meal or activity.

But those travels across campus also allowed for some great interactions. We visited with locals, as well as fellow competitors from around the world. Perhaps some of the neatest interactions were with fellow Arkansans (including the team from Walnut Ridge) who we would bump into while navigating from one place to another.

We were able to see a performance by a team from Poland who opened our eyes to a whole new level of creativity in costumes and set design. We visited with students from Japan, Poland, Singapore and China, as well as team members and coaches from throughout the United States.

More than 800 teams gathered for the competition. A highlight was a parade of banners and floats representing each state and country in attendance. It was amazing to sit in the Hilton Coliseum with thousands of kids from throughout the world who had made a commitment to make a journey with Odyssey of the Mind.

Traveling to World Finals was definitely an experience of a lifetime for me. I realize now that we are home, though, that it was just a leg in the journey.

As we traveled home, the kids were already talking about next year's problem and things to do different and things they hope they can try. And so it begins again, not just a physical journey, but truly an odyssey of the mind!

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