Beyond the Classroom
Odyssey of the Mind: Encouraging Creativity and Teamwork
The ability to think creatively, to imagine new solutions to pressing local and global problems can’t be overvalued. Nurturing children’s creativity is essential to ensuring that humans are able to cope with the challenges ahead. Odyssey of the Mind, an international education program, provides a chance for students from kindergarten through college to offer solutions to unusual and compelling problems. With problems ranging from creatively interpreting a chapter from Herman Melville’s Moby Dick to designing, building and operating an original vehicle, the answers participants come up with aren’t so much the "right" ones — instead they’re the product of creative collaboration and teamwork.
JSC behavioral sciences professor Gina Mireault has been involved extensively in volunteering with Odyssey of the Mind, spending countless hours coaching her two children’s teams. All Odyssey of the Mind coaches are required to supply at least one volunteer judge to serve at the state competitions. Professor Mireault decided she could do better than that, and enlisted students from her Developmental Psychology class to work as judges.
It’s no small commitment. The JSC students spend about two class periods preparing for the judges’ training, learning about the program and even trying to solve some typical Odyssey of the Mind problems. They are then required to do a full-day judges training and then preside over an aspect of the state competition. Despite the time involved, says Professor Mireault, the experience is a positive one for her and her students. Not only does it give JSC psychology students the chance to work up close with younger students (the majority are in grades 3 — 8), complementing what the students are learning about human cognitive and social development — it’s also a lot of fun.