Westwood makes state in second year of Odyssey competition

Concord’s Westwood makes state in second year of Odyssey competition

Westwood makes state in second year of Odyssey competition
Jude Harto, left, Joshua Htut, Declan Burnett, Beau Venegas, Sorina Touch,  Kaeden Kirton and Truman Wimmer make up Westwood Elementary School’s Odyssey of the Mind team. (Photo courtesy of Casie Permenter)

CONCORD, CA (Mar. 5, 2024) — Westwood Elementary School is the latest Mt. Diablo Unified School District institution to enjoy success in the Odyssey of the Mind hands-on critical thinking program. The school claimed second place to qualify for the state tournament slated for March 9 at Concord High School.

Made up of six fifth graders and one third grader in its second year of competition, the team qualified in early February among a 16-team field.

The process started back in October, when they decided to tackle the Performance Problem-Rocking World Detour. The team had to create a performance about a rock band on tour, including an original song, a band instrument, band merchandise and original hairstyles.

From mayhem to mastery

Parent Casie Permenter characterized the team’s evolution over the past several months as going “from mayhem to mastery.”

“Last year, I think we spent half the time just trying to get them to work toward the good of the group rather than being so possessive of their individual contributions,” said Permenter, who co-coached with Crystal Cole. “This year, since three of them were already partly in that mode after going through it last year, it was a little easier to get the other four up to speed. It’s still chaos, though.”

Central to the team’s presentation is a band that is transported to an unexpected location and the members figuring out how to get back on tour.

According to Permenter, the performance starts at a yard sale. There, a group of kids pick up an instrument for $1. The purchase inspires them to start a band: The Ghost Rockers.

Ten years later, the touring band rocks out on stage. A ghost appears and tells them their music is terrible and she’s going to transport them to where “real” music exists – a place called Music Land with musical notes and classical music playing.

A creative journey

“It is something I won’t forget,” said Sorina Touch, 10, a fifth grader and first-year member of the squad.

“It was full of energy, and I was impressed by how far we have come,” she added. “When I can work with others, we can be awesome and we can come up with something pretty nice.”

The team’s creativity shines in decisions such as using baking soda to resemble snow for their skit. Since Arm & Hammer sponsored the problem, the team identified Arm & Hammer Baking Soda for their solution.

As the team prepares for the state competition, Touch noted they used feedback from the judges to make some adjustments to the background for their presentation and the Ghost Rockers’ merchandise.

Permenter participated in Odyssey of the Mind in high school in the late 1980s. She found it interesting to experience the event as a coach as well as seeing how the program works at the elementary school level.

“I’ve learned that Odyssey of the Mind at the elementary school level is a lot like herding cats,” said Permenter. “It’s been a lot of work but a lot of fun.”

David Scholz
David Scholz

David Scholz is back in journalism as a freelance writer and photographer after nearly two decades in education. Prior to moving into teaching in 2000, he worked as a full-time journalist since 1988 for rural community and small daily newspapers in Central Ohio and Northern Nevada, and later in California with The Business Journal in Fresno and dailies in the Bay Area, including The Oakland Tribune and The San Francisco Chronicle. More recently Scholz also worked in an editing, writing, and page layout role with the Rossmoor News.