After seeing success at the state Odyssey of the Mind tournament last month, Durham Community School’s Odyssey program is heading to the world championships in Iowa.

Three Durham teams competed in that state tournament. One of the teams placed third, and the other two teams finished in first place and will be head to Ames, Iowa, in late May for the championship. 

“We are just over the moon proud of these kids because they came out of a pandemic and redeveloped their skills. Just knowing that it took a lot of perseverance to work from October until now, we could not be prouder to see their work featured in such an amazing way,” David McLellan, the team’s co-coach, said. 

Odyssey of the Mind is a program that challenges children to use problem-solving skills without interference or outside assistance from adults. Odyssey is structured with five different problems every year for the students to choose from. The Durham Community Odyssey 4th grade team picked the vehicle problem, which typically involves building a vehicle to accomplish a specific task.

This year’s challenge for the state tournament was called the Escape Vroom. Students had to create an escape room in which a vehicle revealed different clues by completing different tasks. There is a creative element of trying to figure out the story behind the escape room. Each team is given eight minutes to complete their problem. 

“Odyssey of the mind is important because it gives children the opportunity to explore their own creativity and address the design process including failures,” McLellan said. “So, they have to try their ideas and see if they work or not and assess what to do next. It takes a lot of time and commitment to do it, but the lessons learned are really profound not just in the subject matter that they choose to do their work in but in the process of learning how to cope with real-life challenges.” 


Mary McLellan, co-coach, said she believes that Odyssey of the Mind helps children harness their storytelling skills. 

“It does not just exercise their tech brain, but it really exercises their creative minds too because it is not just a robotics competition,” she said. “It has to be a part of a story which is something I really appreciate about the program because I feel like storytelling has gotten really hard for kids in this day and age. The art of telling a story with a beginning, middle and end is really where I see the most evolution out of these kids.”

Shelby Jenusaitis, 9, one of the students advancing to the world tournament, said she is very proud of her team. 

“I am really excited, and I am really proud of our team for getting first place because we worked really hard, and I think that all our hard work paid off.” 

Lily Jenusaitis, 12, expressed the same sentiment as her sister.

“I am also very excited because I am going to be able to meet a bunch of new people,” she said. “We will get to do our show one more time and we will get to have the new experience of visiting Iowa so it will be fun.”

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