Students from Bayside public school qualify for world finals at national problem-solving competition

Photos courtesy of P.S. 203

A group of talented fifth-grade students from a Bayside public school is headed to the world finals of a national problem-solving competition in May.

The team of seven from P.S. 203 in Oakland Gardens will compete against students from around the globe in the Odyssey of the Mind World Finals, which they qualified for back in March. The students earned first place at the regional competition and second place at the New York state finals, according to P.S. 203 teacher and team coach Katerina Stavropoulos.

Approximately 850 teams from the United States and other countries will compete in the world finals, which will take place on the Michigan State University campus. P.S. 203 is the only New York City public school represented at world finals.

Stavropoulos has been coaching students in Odyssey of the Mind (OotM) for nine of the 11 years that the school has participated in the competition. According to the program’s website, OotM is “an international creative problem-solving competition that engages students in their learning by allowing their knowledge and ideas to come to life in an exciting, productive environment.”

Students from kindergarten through 12th grade choose one of five long-term problems and must find a creative solution. The problems involve students building structures, writing scripts and creating artwork among other tasks.

“It’s always different. Different kids bring something new to the competition every year,” Stavropolous said. “There are so many ways to solve the problems. Teachers can’t tell students ‘yes’ or ‘no’, so it’s both impressive and freeing [for them].”

This year, the Bayside students chose to portray Leonardo DaVinci’s workshop through a creative performance. Stavropoulos said that students began the months-long preparation back in October, which involved meeting two times a week for two hours each session.

“There was a lot of brainstorming, looking things up on the computer and trial and error,” Stavropoulos said.

The fruits of their labor included an original script with student-made costumes, props and scenery — including a replica of the “Mona Lisa.”

Teachers choose students to participate in the competition based on recommendations from their colleagues. Stavropolous said that qualifying students possess “various talents” and those chosen include creative thinkers, outgoing students and team players.

Stavropoulos shared that this is the third time P.S. 203 students have qualified for the world finals. In 2013 and 2018 students won 10th and ninth place, respectively.

World Finals are May 22 to 25 at Michigan State University. To learn more about the competition, visit odysseyofthemind.com.

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