How to Start an Odyssey of the Mind Program
Like with all Odyssey of the Mind problems, there is no one correct answer to this question. Each school and group has its own guidelines for clubs and organizations, its own degree of faculty involvement, and its own approach to Odyssey of the Mind. Some school districts and home school associations give financial support, and some do not. However, the following steps are some you might consider in getting started:
Talk to the school administration about the goals and values of Odyssey of the Mind. Get approval for this extra-curricular activity. Find out whether your school already has an Odyssey of the Mind membership. If so, all you need to do is to contact the school Odyssey coordinator, and ask them to include you in any communications regarding Odyssey of the Mind. If not, explain what might be required in terms of sending flyers home, having a meeting for interested parents and students, enlisting a faculty sponsor. Also note that in many high schools and some middle schools the Odyssey of the Mind program is run as a club, so you and/or your student may need to check into the procedures for starting a club at your school.
Determine who will be allowed to participate in the Odyssey of the Mind program. Some schools open this program only to “GATE” designated students while others allow anyone who wants to participate be a part of the excitement. From at-risk to gifted and from early elementary to college, all types of students can benefit from the Odyssey of the Mind program. At every academic level, it’s a chance for students to learn in a non-traditional way.
Talk to the PTA/PTO about Odyssey of the Mind. If the funds are not available from the school administor but he or she approves, ask the PTA for funding. Odyssey of the Mind in some schools is funded by GATE, Site Council or other dedicated funding.
If the program is not financed by the school, examine methods of financing with the school administrator. While schools and/or PTAs may provide the funding for National and State and memberships, Regional Tournament fees for each team, and possible seed money for each team, many schools require the teams to provide their own on going funding. Some teams use this funding piece as part of the team problem solving process. Some teams assess a fee to each team member to fund this program.
Determine who will be the “School Coordinator” to help form teams and disseminate information to coaches and teams. This can be anyone willing to be the point person. Provide initial support to coaches by giving them information about training, copies of the rules and the problems and school’s membership card. Make sure all coaches are on the Region’s mailing list.
Check the AZ Odyssey Website regularly. (This will be your primary information source to assure you receive training and tournament information for the local region.)
Request Presentation/information. Contact your Regional Director to answer questions and to set up a time for a representative to come to your school to talk with students, teachers and or parents.
Plan an information meeting. In the Fall, invite interested parents, students, teachers and administrators to attend. Tell them about Odyssey of the Mind and how to form teams. The information about this meeting can be sent by school website or email group, flyer, PTA newsletter and/or announcements over the PA system. You may wish to distribute additional information (program overview, problem synopses) at the meeting
Get a National Membership Kit. This Kit will include “the problems”, this year’s program guide, sample spontaneous problems, curriculum items designed by NASA (our proud sponsor) that can be used in classrooms at all levels. Go to https://www.odysseyofthemind.com/join-odyssey/ to register your school.
Determine who will coach the teams. Coaching is an excellent way for parents to become involved in their child’s educations in an informal and fun environment. When recruiting coaches, explain that a team cannot be formed without a coach. (Some schools have had much success by requiring that each team parent have some responsibility, either as coach, assistant, team volunteer, spontaneous coach, judges, etc.)
Have students sign up and juggle their interests, ages, and available coaches to form teams. All interested students should have the opportunity to participate in Odyssey of the Mind!
If there is inadequate school administration interest but there is enough parent interest, you can look to a community organization to sponsor your team(s) in their name. The Odyssey of the Mind Program Guide gives guidelines regarding what types of organizations qualify. In the past we have had teams sponsored by Lions, Rotaries and the India Community Center.
If there is inadequate parent/student interest: We encourage you and your student to invite as many of your friends from school as you can find to attend the Regional and/or the State tournament. Perhaps you will then be able to drum up interest next year, after people see how awesome the program is!
Thanks to Silicon Valley OM for the information provided on this page.