Topa academics head to finals
By Kelly Feser Eells
For the kind of coaching Sarah Garrett,
a fourth-fifth grade combination class teacher at Topa Topa School,
does, no helmets are required. She does, however, insist upon
thinking caps, which any team she's ever coached has only been
too happy to put on.
Garrett is an Odyssey of the Mind - an annual, academic contest
for students kindergarten through college - coach, who is, along
with a group of Topa Topa fourth- and fifth-graders, in a triumphant
mood these days. On March 8, they placed first and second at
the Los Angeles regional competition, and are now headed to the
state finals, to be held in Visalia on April 8.
(Teams that advance from the state-province-country
level are eligible go on to the Odyssey of the Mind World Finals,
"I'm just really excited!" said Garrett, now in her
sixth year as coach.
So are Bronwyn Bennett, Aubrey Hale, Gabrielle Mintz, Austin
Rennacker, Belen Soriano, Katie Vlasoff and Taylor Young, whose
creative "answer" to the question of why the Taj Mahal
was built earned them first place.
Equally excited are Hayden Bean, Susan Bowman, Heather Gerhart,
Enrique Juarez, Natalie Pierson and Evan Praetorius, whose imaginary
trip to Mars, where they discussed the meaning of life with an
alien, earned them second place.
Another group of fourth and fifth grade Topa Topa students earned
a third place trophy at the regional competition. This team consists
of Stacy Barragan, Tyler Brown, Madison Gay, McKenna Jensen,
Grace Miller, Marika Wegerbauer and Sonia Zatkowsky.
Odyssey of the Mind encourages creative thinking through teamwork;
students choose a "problem," then work together to
"solve" it. Designed in 1979, Odyssey of the Mind fosters
critical thinking and self-confidence by, literally, taking criticism
out of the equation. Program participants work in a collaborative
setting, where every idea is heard and none dismissed out-of-hand.
"It's brainstorming and teamwork to come up with something
special," said Garrett.
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