For the first time ever, Walnut Elementary Education Center’s problem-solving Odyssey of the Mind team is advancing to the competition’s World Finals — just one of a handful of teams from California to do so.
“It’s kind of a big deal,” the team’s coach, Richard Pereira, said. “The kids are all really excited.”
The Odyssey of the Mind program is an international competition aimed at providing creative problem-solving opportunities for students through solving open-ended challenges. To make it to the 2018 World Finals in Iowa, set for May 23-26, Walnut OOTM teammates Alexandria Pereira, Maren Areias, Victoria Parreira, Cole Martin, Lily Edgerton, Kate Williams and Madison Reeves took home first place at the regional tournament and second at the statewide tournament in March.
The team has been hard at work on their submission for the competition since September, said Pereira. With five categories of problems to choose from, the group — who are all students in Walnut’s Visual and Performing Arts Magnet program — selected the “performance” category.
“They gave the kids a certain set of guidelines to follow — four required characters in the performance, building their own props, writing their own script,” Pareira said. “They really had to think outside the box.”
The team’s performance is titled “A Stellar Hangout,” and tells the story of a yoga instructor who decides to open up a studio/juice bar in outer space after accidently teleporting herself there via a complicated yoga position.
The students, in grades 3-5, used materials like cardboard, duct tape, felt and hot glue to create their own set, even developing their own ventriloquist dummy to portray a robot in the show.
“The kids over at Walnut are outstanding, and when they’re on the Visual and Performing Arts side they do kind of get geared for this,” Pereira said. “It’s something they really enjoy.”
Walnut’s OOTM team will be one of nearly 900 teams from all around the world, including the United States and over 20 other countries.
“Our little team from Walnut Elementary is one of say, between 10 and 14 teams out of California to make it there,” Pereira said.
Walnut’s Parent-Teacher Organization is raising funds for the OOTM team to travel to Iowa State University for the World Finals and has partnered with Get Air Trampoline Park in Turlock to donate 20 percent of sales from Wednesdays in April to the cause when Walnut is mentioned at the register. For others that would like to donate funds, the Walnut PTO is accepting donations and can be reached at 209-216-7074.