RANGELEY — A team of six students from Rangeley Lakes Regional School will travel to Michigan State University in late May for the Odyssey of the Mind World Finals.

Yes. The world competition.

Mya Laliberte, Hannah McMillan, Lily Lavalee, Ella Schaffer, Evan Smith and Emily Eastlack will compete against teams from around the world.

As part of the annual international educational program where teams use creativity and ingenuity to solve a problem, the students must independently — without adult input or assistance — come up with their own solution to a given problem.

Shirley Schrader and Vicky Thompson are the Rangeley team’s sideline facilitators, or coaches. Their responsibility is to guide the students through the process, and make sure students adhere to pages of written regulations.

The “problem” chosen by the students was Silent Movie, which was one of five they could have picked.

For this problem, students were asked to create and perform a silent film with a lighthearted villain, who carries out three acts of villainy on a movie set. The students are not allowed to speak, but they are able to play music on hand-constructed instruments.

The villain of this 8-minute play is a dragon. The acts of villainy include stomping on flowers, knocking over a tomato stand and putting donkey ears over the rabbit ears of a TV.

Evan Smith described why the villain acts in such a fashion: “He wants a warm hug — like Olaf from ‘Frozen.’”

Mya Laliberte, a fifth-grader, and her team built a homemade xylophone.

“We cut pipes to different lengths and we took a cardboard box and put little slits in it,” Laliberte explained. “Then we put the copper pipes on there. We learned the different noises they made and labeled them 1, 2, 3, 4 so we knew how to play our songs.”

One of the songs was a version of “Cotton-Eyed Joe.”

The silent film opens with a trailer where the students are allowed to speak.

The movie trailer for the Rangeley students involves an obstruction that has blocked a volcano in Hawaii and caused a great disruption on the island, due to the amount of soot filling the sky.

Watching the trailer, viewers eventually learned the obstruction is a pig, by both studying the hand-painted backdrop of a pig stuffed in the mouth of a volcano and by watching the finale where Smith, dressed as a pig, bursts through the curtain backdrop.

There is an additional stage of competition to solve a spontaneous problem presented by a panel of judges. It might require a creative solution to a hands-on project, or a creative verbal solution.

The students have 1 to 2 minutes to consider the problem and 3 to 4 minutes to respond to the problem.

Asked about their commitment to this competition, Smith said, “In the beginning of the year we started meeting on Wednesdays, then when we got close to competition, we met every day after school and it took a lot of time.”

Thompson, one of the coaches, said, “The biggest challenge is for them to have confidence in themselves to build a story. They are so used to having adults tell them what to do; this was the first time that adults stayed back and they did it on their own.”

Competing against talented teams from across Maine, and winning the regional OM competition was entirely unexpected by the Rangeley students.

Laliberte describes the moment: “We were sitting in regionals and we didn’t think we were gonna go to states because it was our first year doing it, and we were like, ‘Oh well, we had fun.’

“They announced third place and it wasn’t us,” she continued. “They announced second place and it wasn’t us. Then they announced first place and they said our name. We were so shocked that they actually had to come over and say, ‘That was you!’”

The World Finals at Michigan State University is May 20-23.

“It will be so fun,” Laliberte said. “We get to meet people from different countries, from places like China. We get to make new friends.”

Schrader, also a coach for the Rangeley team, said, “As we move forward in educational reform, programs like Odyssey of the Mind can provide a profound arena for our youth to take charge of applying their learning. I hope we continue to support student learning through activities like Odyssey of the Mind.”

The Rangeley students must raise enough money for their airfare, room and board. To support their efforts, contact Schrader at 864-3907, or 864-3311, ext. 137.


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