Pleasant Ridge Union School District offers an Advanced Studies Program for gifted and talented students in 4th-8th grades. The program’s focus is on participation in Odyssey of the Mind, a worldwide creative problem-solving competition that is widely recognized for meeting Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics (STEAM); Common Core; and 21st Century learning objectives.
Divided into teams of 5-7 students, children have the opportunity to solve one of five complex open-ended problems using creative thinking strategies. The student-driven solution process takes months of brainstorming, creating, designing and building, all culminating in the regional Odyssey of the Mind competition where teams present their main problem’s solution and separately solve an on-the-spot problem. Teams have the opportunity to advance to California state-level competition and ultimately world-level competition where top teams from around the globe gather to share their solutions.
In the Advanced Studies Program, students harness their own abilities, knowledge and interests while developing skill sets that will help them succeed in life, such as collaborative problem-solving, leadership, work ethic, perseverance, public speaking, creative thinking, designing to requirements, working within deadlines, working within budget constraints, conflict resolution, interpersonal communication, social interaction, and project management. Regardless of competition results, each student experiences success through active participation in the free-thinking process. Parents also have a unique opportunity to share in the rewarding experience with their children by contributing to the program in various ways.
To participate in the Advanced Studies Program, students must undergo a rigorous selection process. Students are initially considered based on standardized criteria, but students can also be evaluated based on a teacher recommendation or upon request of the student or parent. An important consideration for both student and parent is the time commitment of participation; as in other competitive team activities, each program member deserves fully engaged teammates.
The PRUSD Advanced Studies Program offers a learning environment like no other. Students are encouraged to not only think “outside the box”, but also to investigate ways to creatively use “the box” to solve a problem. Why not use the box to build a 3-D rendition of a Picasso cubist masterpiece? Or incorporate the box into a machine that pulls a rabbit out of a hat? Or cut up the box and use the pieces to create something completely unique? The possibilities are endless!