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Forest Hills Takes Top Honors at Odyssey of the Mind World Event


Danny Burns just can’t resist adding the ‘Dun, dun, dun!’ sound effect when he talks about the costume he donned for the Odyssey of the Mind World Finals in May. In a gold cape and white tights, the Forest HIlls Central Woodlands fifth-grader transformed into a superhero named Pandora 2.0.

“The atmosphere is just electric,” Danny said of the annual finals event, held this year at Michigan State University in Lansing. “It’s so fun, and it makes you more creative in general. It broadens your thinking. It helps you with school, with everything.”

Danny helped make district history this year when Forest Hills students earned three world finishes in their divisions at the Odyssey of the Mind 2015 World Finals.

More than 850 teams from around the world competed during the 37th annual international creative problem-solving competition. Nearly 70 teams competed in each problem and age division, and each of those teams was among the top from their state or country. FHPS had seven teams make it to the World Finals.

The following Forest Hills teams received top honors:

  • Problem 3, Division 1 – Pandora’s Box – Central Woodlands 5/6 School, First Place (top Michigan finish)
  • Problem 2, Division 2 – Experiencing Technical Difficulties – Northern Hills Middle, Second Place (top Michigan finish)
  • Problem 4, Division 3 – Lose Your Marbles – Central High, Second Place (top Michigan finish)

Central Woodlands student Danny Burns gets into the superhero role for his team’s “Pandora 2.0” entry
Central Woodlands student Danny Burns gets into the superhero role for his team’s “Pandora 2.0” entry

Other Kent ISD schools to win honors at this year’s Odyssey of the Mind World Finals were Highlands Middle School in theNorthview Public Schools district; Roguewood Elementary, North Rockford Middle School and Rockford High School; East Grand Rapids Middle School; Thornapple Kellogg Middle School and High School; City High/ Middle School; and Murray Lake Elementary and Lowell High School in Lowell.

The competition in May was Sarah Kuntzman’s 10th year competing at Odyssey of the Mind events. She has been on teams that have placed in the Top Six, but never higher until this year.

Her younger sister also competed at the World Finals this year.

The World Finals is not exactly like going to the Olympics, Sarah said, “but it’s still a pretty great achievement, though.”

Sarah is headed to Purdue University to study engineering.

She has enjoyed Odyssey of the Mind because “you are competing with something you create, and the only people who can contribute to the solution are the people on the team. It’s a drama program, it’s technical, it offers a huge range of things to do.”

The Central Woodland ⅚ team, from left: Danny Burns, Jack Woods, Jacob Erickson, Ava Dixon, Kali Coppess and Hannah Krause
The Central Woodland ⅚ team, from left: Danny Burns, Jack Woods, Jacob Erickson, Ava Dixon, Kali Coppess and Hannah Krause

At Forest Hills, OM is Tradition

The champions from the Central Woodlands 5/6 team were the same group of students who took third place at World Finals when they were fourth-graders at Thornapple Elementary.

At Forest Hills, Odyssey of the Mind is a district-wide passion. Odyssey Coordinator Marti Atwater said the district’s support is what has led to the interest and success.

Coordinators work with every Forest Hills school. Atwater said students stay involved from elementary through high school, and there are several longtime coaches.

She sees the benefit Odyssey has on every child. Team members use their strengths to fill in for each other’s weaknesses, she said, and the possibilities are boundless.

“There’s no boundary of what they can think up and try to put into reality,” Atwater said.

“They don’t have to think the way you’ve been taught to think. It’s not a linear progression. Their imaginations are allowed to run free in a way they aren’t in a regular school setting.”

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is associate managing editor and reporter, covering Byron Center, Kentwood, Wyoming and Grand Rapids Community College. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013 and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio or email Erin.

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