Six students from Rangeley Lakes Regional School will compete in the Odyssey of the Mind World Finals May 20-23 at Michigan State University. Mya Laliberte, Hannah McMillan, Lily Lavalee, Ella Schaffer, Evan Smith and Emily Eastlack will compete against Odyssey of the Mind teams from all over the world, according to a news release from the school.

The competition is an international educational program where teams use creativity and ingenuity to solve a problem. The students must independently find their own solution to a given problem.

The Rangeley team’s sideline facilitators are Shirley Schrader and Vicky Thompson. Their responsibility is to guide the students through the process and make sure they adhere to the written regulations.

The “problem” chosen by the students was silent film. Students were asked to create and perform a silent film with a light-hearted villain who carries out three acts of villainy on a movie set. The students are not allowed to speak; however, they are able to play music on hand-constructed instruments. The villain of this eight-minute play is a dragon. During the play the dragon’s three 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 explains the villain acts in such a fashion, “He wants a warm hug — like Olaf from ‘Frozen’.” Mya Laliberte, a fifth grader, explains in the release how their team built a xylophone, “We cut pipes to different lengths and we took a cardboard box and put little slits in it. 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.”

The 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 because of the amount of soot filling the sky. Those watching the trailer eventually learn 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 Evan Smith, dressed as a pig, busts through the curtain backdrop. There is an additional stage of competition that has to do with solving a spontaneous problem presented by a panel of judges. The spontaneous problem might require a creative solution to a hands-on project or it might require a creative verbal solution. The students have 1-2 minutes to consider the problem and 3-4 minutes to respond to the problem.

Evan describes the team’s commitment to participating in Odyssey of the Mind, “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 two coaches for the Rangeley team, comments, “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.”

Rangeley Lakes Regional School is a K-12 school with a student population that caps off at 200 students. Being up against talented teams from all across northern, central and western Maine and winning the regional competition was entirely unexpected by the Rangeley students. Mya 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. 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!'” When asked about the trip to the World Finals at Michigan State University where they will perform their silent film in front of other teams from all over the rest of the world, Mya says “It will be so fun. We get to meet people from different countries — from places like China. We get to make new friends.”

Schrader, a coach for the Rangeley team, said in the release, “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 flights to and from East Lansing and their room and board. To support their efforts, contact their coach Shirley Schrader at 864-3907 or 864-3311, ext. 137.

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