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Contest puts minds over matter

"Each team has a coach, but the coach is really just there to set up the times for the kids to meet and provide a space for the kids to meet and just to give them some general guidelines to get them started," said Iannotti.

Students from grades kindergarten through 12 participate in the competition, and everyone answers the same questions. Teams are split up into grade groups of five to seven students. Participants are divided into divisions according to grade. They compete against groups in their own division in front of a panel of volunteer judges. Winners go onto the New York State competition held at Binghamton University, and from there possibly the World Finals held at Iowa State University.

"I think the whole process is great to watch the children develop their responses, their team building skills, and their questioning skills," said Suzanne Meeker, an Odyssey of the Mind coach from the Scotia Glenville Central School District.

Meeker said she thinks the competition is also nice because students get a sense that the world is "bigger than themselves."

"It's one little thing to solve problems in Scotia Glenville, but once they go to regional competitions and see that kids are answering questions in such a different way, I think it helps the kids to understand the world is larger than they think it is and we can help and make an impact on it," said Meeker.

Iannotti also added that teams have spent months of their free time solving these problems as well as developing friendships, teamwork skills, independent study and confidence " "all the skills that are so relevant in 21st century education today."

Teams also learn how to budget money since there is a cost limit to each problem. This means you will see students getting creative with costumes, props, dances, gymnastics, instruments and more.

For more information on the program, to volunteer or get your school involved, visit www.odysseyofthemind.com.""

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