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Published May 11th, 2022
Wagner Ranch Elementary 4th-graders head to Odyssey of the Mind World Finals
Team with costumes and set at state competition, from left: Connor Volk, Anya Parikh, coach Leslie Volk, Ryan Gibson, Drew Alameda, Elise Nguyen, coach Maggie Wang, Stella Schmitt, Gianna Campbell. Photo Scott Campbell

May we serve you a bacon pie? Sounds delicious and creative, as seven Wagner Ranch fourth-graders will be serving bacon pies in the jungle at the May 2022 World Finals Odyssey of the Mind competition in Ames, Iowa. What do pies have to do with the jungle? As one of two parts in the competition, the team must solve a long-term problem with the following requirements: create an environment with a climate change threat (bacon pies) and an unsuspecting hero who is a solution to the threat. Two environmental scene changes are required and when the hero eliminates the threat, the scene returns to its natural state. The team met for more than 80 group work hours (560 hours collectively) over five months to complete this production.
The creative process includes brainstorming and teamwork to build the various pieces of an environmental scene. They hand painted boxes to built the jungle. As animals are an essential part of a jungle, the team created monkeys, a polar bear, penguins, a flamingo, a squirrel, and a worm, some with handmade 3-D paper masks. They sing! While flamingos, penguins, and polar bears are not usual in the jungle, it's all part of the creative process and to meet additional requirements of at least two animal characters, original songs, and the use of Arm & Hammer Baking Soda.
Drew Alameda, Gianna Campbell, Ryan Gibson, Elise Nguyen, Anya Parikh, Stella Schmitt, and Connor Volk, also worked together in the second part of the competition, spontaneous problem-solving. Based on scores from both parts, the team placed first in their division at San Francisco Bay Regional, and third in the Northern California state competition, where the top three in the state continue to the World Finals. The team's coaches, Leslie Volk (Wagner's Innovation Lab leader) and Maggie Wang said, "There is a unique chemistry among this team and we coach them to bring their individual strengths to collectively make the teamwork creative, think outside the box, and have fun!" This helps to foster the pace during the competitive elements of problem solving.
When asked what has been interesting about the process, Connor Volk said, "I like how our Odyssey team works together to compromise on a solution that is both funny and creative." The final production will yield a scientific chemical transformation of baking soda, kept secret until the team competes May 26-28.
To get the students to the World Finals from California to Iowa, the team needs to raise approximately $18,000 to register, ship all life-size, student-built props, and cover transportation and housing. To donate, visit www.oneorinda.org/donate-community under Community Giving, and note in the comments, "Donation for Wagner Ranch Odyssey of the Mind."

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