El Camino Creek 5th grade team advances to Odyssey of the Mind World Finals

El Camino Creek (ECC) Gal Pals team (l-r): Top row: Kaylin Pollard, Elizabeth Lacy, Calista Lowery, Lily Logan; Bottom row: Ella Harkins. Not pictured: Cayman Ringdahl

The El Camino Creek (ECC) Gal Pals—a team of six 5th grade girls at ECC Elementary School—came together in October 2018 to participate in the Odyssey of the Mind (OOTM) program for their very first time. After four months of preparation, the team competed at the California South Coastal regional tournament on March 2 placing 2nd in their division and advancing to the Southern California State tournament. At the state tournament on March 22, the ECC Gal Pals competed against the top teams from four regions—LA Basin, South Central Valley, Inland Empire, and Coastal—receiving 1st place in the Spontaneous Problem category, and 2nd place overall, earning themselves the chance to compete in the OOTM 2019 World Finals.

The mission of OOTM, an international educational program, is to foster creativity and problem-solving skills in students from kindergarten through college all over the world. Through practicing out of the box thinking, writing original scripts, and creating costumes, props, and sets, teams of students work together to produce incredible solutions to creative problems. Teams are each assigned one of five “long-term” problems to work on, in addition to practicing their “spontaneous problem” skills.

For this year’s competition, team members Ella Harkins, Elizabeth Lacy, Lily Logan, Calista Lowery, Kaylin Pollard, and Cayman Ringdahl solved Problem #5, Opposites Distract, by creating a script, props, and set for an eight-minute performance that met over 30 individual criteria, including original song, dance, and poetry—completely on their own. While two parent coaches were able to answer questions and teach general skills, the girls could have no outside assistance when developing their solution to the problem. The team also competed in a spontaneous problem designed to test effective team work and given to them the day of the competition, in which they had only minutes to think of a solution, and then build it.

Never expecting to advance to the state competition, yet alone World Finals, the ECC Gal Pals are “unbelievably excited and humbled,” and can’t wait to represent their school and the coastal region in this year’s World Finals, held at Michigan State University, May 22 - 26. The moral of their performance, “We all shine in different ways,” is sure to take on new meaning as they share the stage with OOTM teams from around the world.

The team would be most grateful to receive any donation to help support their registration, housing and travel costs via their GoFundMe page at


—- News release