Local schools compete at Odyssey tournament

BROADALBIN – Last August, five Broadalbin-Perth Middle School students sat in Pizza Hut formulating an idea for their Odyssey of the Mind performance.

Saturday, at the Odyssey of the Mind Regional Tournament, the team’s hard work paid off when it found out it would be going to the World Tournament for the second year in a row.

“We were in Pizza Hut, we do that every year, and we started spitting out random ideas,” said Erin Morrison, a member of the team. “Somebody said we should have a planetarium and somebody else said we should have plants, so we just combined them together and made a plant-tetarium for our script.”

The New York State Region 21 Odyssey of the Mind Tournament, hosted this year by Broadalbin-Perth High School, is an international competition that challenges teams ranging from kindergartners to high school seniors to creatively solve problems using different solutions. The teams get eight minutes to present their solutions to a panel of judges.

There are three divisions for competition; students in grades 3-5 compete at a Division I level, grades 6-8 at a Division II level, and grades 9-12 at a Division III level.

Saturday’s tournament brought in 63 teams from 13 school districts.

Michele Kelley, district spokeswoman and Odyssey coach of a District III BPHS team, said she initially started volunteering her time for Odyssey because she used to compete in the event when she was in school.

“This event is great for building the students’ communications skills for the competition and the real world,” Kelley said. “It really does help them when they graduate high school.”

The Broadalbin-Perth Middle School team did a performance in which plants take over planets and a neighboring solar system causes a disturbance that is discovered and solved in the skit.

“There are five planets being dominated by different plants,” said the team’s coach, Dave Floyd. “Pluto was dominated by periwinkles, Venus was dominated by the Venus Flytrap, Jupiter was dominated by junipers, and so on. It was a clever idea. Pluto, played by Erin [Morrison], was kicked out of the solar system and she went to the other solar system to see what the noise was and realized it was the bees buzzing because they needed flowers to pollenate, so the solution was the plant planets helped the bees, and vice versa.”

The set included a talking tree made out of cards from the game Apples to Apples, bumble bee costumes made out of yellow and black balloons and a flying dandelion weed suspended with a Slinky.

Floyd and his co-coach Nancy Morrison weren’t allowed to help the team come up with the idea, design the set or write the skit.

“The coach’s job is to try to bring out the communication skills that they need and the confidence that they need to bring their ideas to an audience,” Morrison said. “We teach the process and they do the creating and the problem solving all on their own.”

The other four members of the team include Rhys Floyd, Avery Fenton, Cayleigh Bleyl and Ava Naple.

Each member had something different he or she liked about the event.

“I love the fact that we get to make everything ourselves,” Morrison said. “We have to make our own costumes, our own script, our own props, and it’s just a lot of fun having the satisfaction knowing you got to do everything yourself.”

Naple said she likes how close the team members are with each other.

“We all met each other and now we’re so close,” Naple said. “The year that we went to worlds brought us all so much closer together.”

The middle school team said the next plan on its agenda is to reconvene at the usual spot before the world competition.

“We’re going to Pizza Hut,” Morrison said. “No matter what happens, we go to Pizza Hut after every performance. It’s our spot.”

Division I first-place winners for Saturday’s competition included Kingsborough Elementary School, Fonda-Fultonville Elementary School, East Hill Elementary School and Broadalbin-Perth.

Division II first-place winners included Canajoharie Middle School, Broadalbin-Perth Middle School and Gloversville Middle School.

BPHS won all of the Division III competitions.

All first-place winners will go to the World Tournament April 12 at Binghamton University.