(UPDATE – TOURNAMENT MOVED TO SUNDAY, 3/13) – GJSD to host regional Odyssey of the Mind competition

a purple tie dye background is shown with a yellow "J" and the works Johnstown Odyssey of the Mind" and "Our creativity can't be MASKED!!"

Johnstown junior Alex DeMagistris helped GJSD’s Odyssey of the Mind district coordinator Kristin Meashaw design this year’s team t-shirts.


32 Odyssey of the Mind (OOTM) teams from seven local school districts will compete this Saturday, March 12 at the Johnstown Junior-Senior High School in a regional tournament to determine which teams from Region 21 will move on to the New York state competition.

Johnstown had been in line to host the regional competition in March of 2020, but the onset of COVID-19 meant that the event had to be canceled just days beforehand.

“We were expecting to host 65 teams and about 2,000 people at the regional competition in 2020,” said Kristin Meashaw, the district-wide OOTM coordinator for the Greater Johnstown School District and AIS teacher at Warren Street Elementary.

“We had a DJ booked, inflatable bounce houses lined up, events for the kids to attend throughout the day, and a big awards ceremony planned. We’re excited to finally be coming back to a sense of normalcy, but we’ve still had to scale back this year’s event from what we had originally planned for 2020,” she added.

Indeed, the general public is not able to attend Saturday’s competition and each student is allowed just three spectators. Meashaw says she expects nearly 800 people to be in attendance on Saturday, including students, volunteers, coaches, judges. The awards ceremony will be conducted virtually at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday.

approximately 50 young students pose with three adults on a stage with a red curtain behind them. They are all wearing purple team t-shirts.

Eight of the 12 teams competing for Johnstown on Saturday are from Warren Street Elementary School, including six Division I teams (two teams from third, fourth and fifth grades), and two Division II teams (two teams from sixth grade).

Meashaw started the OOTM program in Johnstown in 2014, after being an active participant with her children’s teams in the Broadalbin-Perth School District. 2014-15 was a “practice year,” as she calls it, and Johnstown officially launched its program for the 2015-16 school year.

The program has grown very quickly in the district. This year, 12 out of the 32 teams competing in regionals will be from the Greater Johnstown School District, including six Division I teams (two teams from third, fourth and fifth grades), five Division II teams (two teams from sixth and seventh grades and one from eighth grade) and one Division III team (eleventh grade). All team coaches are volunteers.

a female student paints a piece of her team's Odyssey of the Mind presentation four male elementary students work on a project as they are supervised by one teacher two young girls use a glue gun to work on a project

Saturday’s regional competition is the first step for local teams to chart their way to the New York state competition and ultimately, to the famed World Finals. The 2022 state competition will be held at the end of March at the New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse, NY. The World Finals will take place at Iowa State University at the end of May.

four young men and one young woman pose for the camera wearing purple team t-shirts with a yellow "J" on the front

GJSD’s Division III team in eleventh grade has been to the World Finals three times.

Johnstown’s lone Division III team in eleventh grade has been together since they were in fifth grade. Meashaw describes the team as being “very seasoned,” as is evidenced by the fact that they have been to the World Finals three times.  

“It is very rare for a team to make it to the World Finals as many times as our eleventh graders have – but they really are that good,” Meashaw said. Each year, 15-18 teams compete at the state level and only the top two teams in each division are able to go to the World Finals. “My ultimate goal is to have more than one Johnstown team get to worlds because it truly is the experience of a lifetime,” she added.

The OOTM program at Johnstown is for students in third through twelfth grade. Sign-ups take place in September, with a district-wide launch event in October. Meashaw says the program provides “enrichment for all the things that you don’t always have time to cover in the classroom,” and says the benefits of participating are endless. 

“Students are building skills in problem solving, budgeting, time management, public speaking and learning how to work together as a team to accomplish a goal — all skills that will help them as an adult,” she said.

an artists' rendering of NY-themed pins is shown, next to the actual finished product

Johnstown junior Alex DeMagistris’ submission was selected by the New York state chapter of Odyssey of the Mind as the official pin set to represent NY at this year’s World Finals. Alex’s artist rendering is shown on the left, with the finished product shown on the right. This is the second time that a Johnstown student’s artwork has been selected for the honor.

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