Basalt students flex brain power for state honors | AspenTimes.com
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Basalt students flex brain power for state honors

A super-whiz team of seven Basalt Elementary School third- and fourth-graders took home a bronze medal last Saturday in a statewide problem-solving competition, Odyssey of the Mind.

The team matched wits – or brains – with about 2,000 other Colorado students at the competition, placing third in the “EnvirOMental Challenge” problem – one of half-dozen different problems in the Odyssey competition.

Odyssey of the Mind is a creative problem-solving program for students in kindergarten through 12th grade; its purpose is to teach divergent thinking and teamwork.



Within each problem category, the student teams were given identical problems in January. On Saturday, they presented their solutions to a panel of judges.

“It’s an after-school project,” said Ron Staerkel, the team’s coach. “We started in January, meeting two times a week, four hours a week, and then the time increases as we get closer.”




Teams presented their solutions in the form of an eight-minute skit.

“I call it mental gymnastics, because that’s basically what it is,” Staerkel said. “They call it creative problem solving – that’s the basis of it all.”

The coaches help steer the children in their research, Staerkel said.

“We present information to them that helps them find a solution to the answer, and they have to dissect that information in order to get to the solution,” he explained.

Each Odyssey team is judged in three areas: long-term, style and spontaneousness.

The Basalt team included: Jenna Bontempo, Casey Criswell, Caitlin Doyle, Christina Long, Katie Staerkel, Rosie Sullivan and Taylor Wolters, and was coached by Staerkel, Jennifer Long and Marvin Cohen. In Western Slope regional competition on April 10, the team captured first place in the EnvirOMental Challenge problem, among 117 teams.

That win allowed the Basalt youngsters to advance to Saturday’s competition in Denver. Statewide, more than 10,000 youngsters participate in the Odyssey of the Mind program annually.

Another Basalt Elementary School team also competed in the Western Slope Odyssey of the Mind competition, placing third in the RatiOMetric Structure problem.


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