A team of seven Dixon Elementary School students and their coach secured fourth place in the Odyssey of the Mind world competition.
The event pitted 800 finalist teams from around the globe against each other in a battle of creativity and wits in Ames, Iowa, home of Iowa State University.
Students were tasked with a problem and pushed to find a solution without any adult help. In the Dixon team’s case, it was to create every aspect of a play, from designing a musical element and creating scenery and costumes to writing the script and forming seven unique characters.
“These kids are so creative and full of energy,” team coach Beth Howard said. “It took a lot of energy to keep them all wrangled in one direction. Everybody would get excited about new ideas, so I helped them stay focused on the goal.”
Dixon Elementary has been competing in the Odyssey of the Mind for more than 10 years, and this year marks the third time the school was been selected for the world competition.
The group was comprised of fifth graders Seth Smith, Keiffer Vogler, Jared Hendricks, Sophia Hayes, Peyton Redmyer and Makayla Williams, and one fourth grader, Leilani Tolliver. This was the first time any of the students had participated in Odyssey of the Mind.
The team finished in second place after competing regionally at First Flight High School in Kill Devil Hills.
“After that, I told them we have to kick it up a notch and make it more fabulous,” Howard said.
The next month at the state competition in Charlotte, they took first place and qualified for the world competition.
The student’s play required them to act out two scenes: one in a historic court and the other in a modern day court. Dixon’s first scene was set in the court of Queen Elizabeth I, complete with a talking throne and a court artist who draws the monarch with a yellow smiley face. The scene then jumps to a food court that features a marionette lion coming out of a box as a prize and four glass bottles used to accompany the team singing a parody of the pop song “Royals” by New Zealand singer Lorde.
While they practiced twice a week after school and did construction on Saturdays, most of their time after qualifying for the wold competition was spent fundraising.
“We had to raise something like eight to ten thousand dollars for fees, travel accommodations and materials for the play,” Howard said. “Despite all that, it was really a wonderful and positive experience for everyone involved. The kids were all very excited and happy.”
At the world competition, the students were joined by thousands of people from countries such as China, Poland and Singapore. To pass the time between events, many of the students exchanged pins with each other.
“It was almost overwhelming for the children to meet people from all over the world and see their customs and culture,” Howard said. “We all were thrilled to be there and had a great time. We are so appreciative of our community and their support.”
Howard said she fully intends to participate in the competition again next year.