Sykesville students learn to use creativity in Odyssey of the Mind

NEIGHBORS

March 08, 1994|By MAUREEN RICE

Almost 50 students from Sykesville schools -- 25 from elementaries and 21 from middle schools -- competed in the Western Maryland segment of Odyssey of the Mind on Saturday.

It was a long trip to Hagerstown, but worth every moment to the children and their families.

In Hagerstown they learned what other Maryland teams had done with the same set of directives they used.

That is the point of the worldwide Odyssey of the Mind program, sponsored by OM Association Inc. to promote creative thinking in kindergarten through college students.

Participants must work together on a solution to a problem.

The choices this year were: create a play based on the "Iliad"; build a balsa structure that could hold weight; create musical instruments and use them to play a recognizable tune; write and produce a humorous play involving animal life from an animal's perspective; and build a small all-terrain vehicle that could overcome obstacles and demolish a balloon.

The children were required to brainstorm and implement their ideas without assistance from coaches, parents, teachers or other adults.

None of the instruments, plays, vehicles or structures looked the same.

Eldersburg Elementary sent a team to the competition for the first time this year. The 8- to 10-year-old children, who chose to build the balsa structure and write a play to complement the destruction of the structure by placing weights on it, decided to throw caution and previous experience to the winds and create an entirely new design for the structure.

"I told them I didn't think it would hold a lot of weight, but that's as far as I can go in giving guidance," said coach Paul Baity.

The impressive looking structure failed to support any weight .

"Now they know why the crossbars [diagonal supports, similar to those on shed doors] are important, and they did a good job of improvising in the play when they lost their props," Mr. Baity said.

Despite the children's shock at watching their cherished structure fail its test and having to think on their feet during their performance, they plan to compete again next year.

If the experience of Freedom Elementary is any indicator, the program at Eldersburg will grow.

Freedom sent three teams to this year's competition.

"This is a popular program," said Sue Podobnik, parent of Lindsay, who competed on one of Freedom's teams. "We have children on a waiting list for OM teams. The only thing that holds us back from having more teams is the availability of coaches."

Sykesville Middle School also sent three teams, sponsored by the Freedom Optimist Club.

*

Alzheimer's disease and other forms of senile dementia can wreak havoc for the family who cares for -- and loves -- the elderly person afflicted with the condition.

"It can be just terrible for the families involved," said Christina Peach, a registered nurse and director of Eldersburg Care, an adult day care center.

"They watch their parents . . . become more and more helpless, and need more and more care, at a time when their own lives are demanding everything they've got."

The anguish people feel at watching their parents deteriorate adds stress to their lives.

These adult children often must care for their own children while attending to the parent suffering from Alzheimer's.

"We feel that a support group would be great for these families," Ms. Peach said.

"They can discuss their feelings; share experiences; voice concerns, needs and frustrations; and offer positive support and encouragement to others in similar situations."

Ms. Peach has formed such a group, affiliated with the Central Maryland Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association.

At 7 p.m. tomorrow, the Dementia Support Group will hold its first meeting at Eldersburg Care on Liberty Road in Eldersburg.

Meetings will be held at the same time the second Wednesday of each month under the direction of Ms. Peach and Lynn Warfield, programs specialist at Eldersburg Care.

Anyone interested in the support group or day care (including Saturdays) for an elderly family member should call Ms. Peach or Ms. Warfield at Eldersburg Care, 795-4686.

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