Students win with skits on White House dog, heart transplant

June 28, 1994|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,Sun Staff Writer

Seven Oaks Elementary School performed a play about life in the Clinton White House for a dog named Shoes. Kingsville Elementary School connected a scene from the "Iliad" in which Patroclus is stabbed through the heart to the first heart transplant operation by Dr. Christiaan Barnard in 1967.

And, when the world finals of the recent Odyssey of the Mind Tournament were over, both Baltimore County schools had finished in the top 10.

Seven students from Seven Oaks in Perry Hall finished sixth among 55 teams in the Furs, Fins and Feathers category. Kingsville's team of seven earned ninth place of 52 in the "Iliad" assignment.

About 200 teams participated in the Olympics-like competition designed to help students cooperate and think creatively. The event was held at the University of Iowa in Iowa City.

For both schools, reaching the world finals has become a goal. Seven Oaks, which opened in 1992, has gone to the world Odyssey finals two straight years. Kingsville has been to the finals three times in the past four years.

Last year, Seven Oaks placed 14th among 55 teams, which intimidated this year's squad a bit.

"The kids from last year's team were telling us that it wasn't easy, that all of the other teams were very good," said Darby Burke, 10, a fifth-grader, who was joined by teammates Reenee Gangopadhyay, Melissa Haut, Michael Holzer, Megan McDonald, Lara Morrell and Sara Murphy in the competition. "Last year's team was good. . . . We thought, 'Oh God, we're not going to place within the Top 10.' "

But the announcement that Seven Oaks had placed sixth quickly boosted their spirits, said Janet Plum, fourth-grade teacher and coach.

"We heard 'Seven,' and that's all we needed to hear," said Mrs. Plum, 47, who shared coaching duties with third-grade teacher Kathleen Poff. "We were on our feet, screaming and jumping. It was a good thing there was no other 'Seven' like Seven Rocks or something, or else we would've been real embarrassed."

On the other hand, Kingsville's finish was a slight letdown from last year, when the team placed sixth out of 52. But fifth-grader Andy Wasmer, 11, said he and his teammates, Meghan Culotta, Lindsay Dye, Greg Lotz, Jackie Refo, Megan Sohasky and Ana Velaetis, were not deeply disappointed.

"I thought it was real good to come in the top 10 two years in a row," Andy said. "I thought ninth was good. So I wasn't too sad."

The dog and heart-transplant skits were classified in the long-term-problem category.

Kingsville's coach, Amy DeNike, a third-grade teacher, said almost half a year's work came together when her students competed before the judges with their heart-transplant skit. "I've seen the skit maybe 20 million times," Ms. DeNike said. "They've been practicing it all year. They could've done it in their sleep. . .. You see those kids who had no idea what the 'Iliad' was, and then when they're on that stage performing in front of all those people, it's just awesome."

In the spontaneous-problem section, the Kingsville students devised creative uses for four large corks with pieces of metal sticking out of the corks. One student suggested they could be earplugs for Texas billionaire Ross Perot.

Seven Oaks students were asked to take two of five pictures and formulate stories based on the pictures. A picture of a flower and a picture of a box were used to symbolize the death of former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.

To get to Iowa, Kingsville and Seven Oaks raised $9,000 and $10,000, respectively, through donations, food sales and other events, such as silent auctions and walkathons.

"What I really like and learned is that it gives kids the chance to open their minds to solve creative problems in different ways than they would normally," said Megan McDonald, 11, a Seven Oaks fifth-grader.

Lindsay Dye, also 11 and a fifth-grader at Kingsville, said she learned "that you have to work together. I also learned to be a better actress."

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