Lake Forest Odyssey of the Mind students head to World Finals, Pam Hobbs honored

When presented with a creative problem, Odyssey of the Mind students are uniquely qualified to find a solution.

In fact, five teams of students and their coaches from the Lake Forest School District are headed to the World Finals event after qualifying at the state level for their award-winning problem-solving skills.

Lake Forest High School Senior Shayla Wynder is one of those students headed to World Finals. She has competed with Odyssey of the Mind since fifth grade. This will be her first, and last, trip to the worldwide event as a student.

“The best part of the Odyssey of the Mind experience is that moment after competing when you realize the team did everything right. And even though the months long process is exhausting, having all day and even overnight practice sessions can be a lot of fun and good team building experiences,” she said.

Pam Hobbs, fourth grade acceleration teacher at Lake Forest Central Elementary, explained it further, saying, “Odyssey of the Mind is an open-ended problem-solving competition that has its basis in creativity. To me, it’s a facet of education that is missing in the push for common core and statewide assessments. Those kinds of hands-on, outside of the box opportunities are limited because of the time constraints and how much teachers feel like there is that they have to get done because of the pressure on students of standardized testing.”

In all, 32 teams are headed to the World Finals to represent Delaware this year.

“And we have five of them. It was a good year,” Ms. Hobbs added.

Along with her teaching role at Lake Forest Central Elementary School in Felton, she is also the Odyssey of the Mind coordinator for the school district, mentor for other coordinators throughout the state and director of the regional Lake Forest High School qualifier event.

She has volunteered with the organization for 11 or 12 years, she recalled, helping countless students and volunteers succeed merely by using their own creativity and willpower.

In honor of her efforts, Ms. Hobbs was given the Friend of OMER Award this year.

“It’s kind of like a civic or community award,” she said. “It’s given out each year. I’m excited they chose me this year.”

Although the regional qualifiers and state tournaments are over, her volunteer role continues as some of the students enrolled in Lake Forest’s Odyssey of the Mind program prepare for their trip to the World Finals to be held at Michigan State University at the end of May.

The trip will cost more than $795 per student and coach participating, which includes room and board at Michigan State University and traveling costs via charter bus.

More money will also be needed for Delaware team shirts for everyone, meals and other expenses while traveling.

“The total cost for the team for kids and coaches if we just lump it all together, meals, shirts, etc., will be just under $36,000,” she explained. “We do get state support which brings that down to about $1,500 per team this year.” Editor’s Note: The Chronicle published $3,600, which was incorrect. The group will need to raise just under $36,000 for this trip, according to Ms. Hobbs.

The students and their parents have worked hard to raise funds and will continue to do so until they leave in late May.

“Their work is not done. They win, but they don’t get to rest on their laurels,” she said. “Why we like to work so hard at fundraising so we can cover 100 percent of the students’ cost is that we have parents that want to go. Because it’s going to be so expensive for them to go, so if we can help cover the students and coaches, it’s one less expense.”

Fundraisers will include bake sales, restaurant-supported events, gift card raffles and school-based fundraisers to name just a few.

“I had a lot of fun participating in elementary school but coaching my daughter’s team this year gave me a new appreciation for the program.  I think the best thing about OM is that it puts the kids in charge,” Lindsey Rangel of Harrington said. She is a parent of a fourth-grade participant, first-time co-coach and former Odyssey of the Mind participant from Lake Forest.  

“They have to brainstorm, problem solve, write a script, create things and help each other. Coaches are there to guide them and keep them on task, but in the end, it’s all the kids’ work. I hope that all Odyssey of the Mind kids feel proud of what they accomplish even if they don’t win medals or move on to states or worlds,” she added.

Photos from this year’s Odyssey of the Mind teams from around Lake Forest School District and information on future fundraising events can be found on their website at

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