Odyssey of the Mind at School District 197

Published April 2023

Earlier this month, students from Garlough Environmental Magnet School and Heritage E-STEM Magnet School on several district Odyssey of the Mind (OM) teams competed in the OM State Tournament—an annual competition where teams of creative and talented students from schools across the state come together to showcase their problem-solving skills, teamwork, and creativity. 

Hosted at Garlough this year, the tournament challenged students to solve complex problems in innovative and imaginative ways, using their knowledge and ingenuity to come up with unique solutions. Participants worked together to design and build original devices, created skits and performances, and solved spontaneous problems in a high-pressure environment. The tournament provided a fun and challenging opportunity for students to demonstrate their creativity, problem-solving abilities, and teamwork skills while also fostering a love of learning and exploration.

Sheryl Kasella, a first-grade teacher at Garlough, introduced OM to School District 197 in 2011 with just two teams of Garlough second graders qualifying and competing at World Finals in Iowa. The OM buzz caught on, and more district schools began adding to the program—nearly 400 students from across all district schools have participated at some point in the last 11 years.

OM is a volunteer-run program that involves parents, teachers, and school staff stepping up to coach and coordinate. Teams can be up to seven students, but no team is too small—last year, a team of two from Heritage impressed the judges at World Finals. This year, 49 district students were involved in OM—with 26 out of the 28 Garlough team participating in OM for the very first time!

Sheryl, who has coached OM for 13 years, is also a member of the OM Minnesota State Board, and was most recently named Minnesota Association Director, shares her goals for the program: “My goal is to continue to grow the program in our district and around the state of Minnesota. I dream of having Odyssey of the Mind as an elective class at Two Rivers High School someday, and maybe even in the middle schools.”

The future of OM looks bright in School District 197 thanks to Sheryl, staff, and parent volunteers.