Write a story, then act it out”easy enough.

But the story has to solve a problem, it has to involve all of the following elements: a nonsensical aspect, a nightmare aspect and a humorous one. It’s getting harder.

Oh, and you also have to have an original way of creating sound in the skit, and a monster with a 180-degree turning radius must pick something up”did anyone remember to mention you have to build all this too?

Most people would have given up by now on this particular problem, but not the 19 students who will represent St. John Lutheran and Forest Park at this year’s Odyssey of the Mind World Finals in Boulder, Colo.

Odyssey is an international educational program providing creative problem-solving opportunities for students. Problems in the highly competitive contest range from creating mechanical devices to presenting interpretations of literary classics.

Six teams from St. John Lutheran School competed at the local and state level: two Division 1 teams, grades 3-5; three Division 2 teams, grades 6-8; and one Division 3 team, composed of high school students.

After an intense state competition, the high school team, one middle school team and one elementary school team made the cut and will be competing in the upcoming world finals.

“In order to go to the world finals the teams had to place first or second place,” said Heidi Schoedel, Odyssey coordinator for St. John School. “We had a third-place team, a second-place team and a first-place team.”

In the case of the St. John team that placed third, the second-place team could not attend the finals, so the judges decided to send the St. John team, which placed a very close third.

Last year, two teams from St. John advanced to the world finals. This year the finals will be held at the University of Colorado in May, where the Forest Park teams will compete with teams from across the U.S. and 25 other countries.

Getting to the finals, however, could prove an exercise in creative problem-solving in and of itself, as the kids need to raise money for the participation fee and transportation.

The Odyssey kids tackled this particular problem in true creative fashion with a Mystery Dinner that included babysitting and a silent raffle at the St. John gymnasium on April 23. This is the first in a series of fundraisers the kids will host to get the money they need.

“We have a per-student fee we have to pay of $469, plus transportation,” Schoedel said.

At the dinner, Odyssey students, sporting bright green shirts did everything. They served as waiters, answered guest questions, sold silent raffle tickets, babysat guests’ children at a playroom, provided entertainment by showcasing their musical talents, and some even worked as junior chefs for the volunteer cook.

At the competition, they will unveil their solution to one of six long-term problems they have been working on since the fall. Then they face off with other teams in the spontaneous problem.

“Our high school team set their play in a restaurant,” Schoedel explains, describing the team’s solution to the “in your dreams” problem described above. In their skit, one character proposes and the would-be fiancee turns him down. He then relives the event several different ways: a nightmare revision, a humorous revision and a nonsensical one.

The elementary school team also tackled the “in your dreams” problem. They created a skit in which someone is reading about ancient Egypt and falls asleep, Schoedel explained.

The middle school team, however, decided to take on the “get the message” problem. Students had to come up with a story, told three different times, and each time it has to be told in a different method”a primitive method, an evolved method, and a futuristic method.

In the finals, “[Students] don’t know [the spontaneous] problem until they show up; it will be one of three types,” Schoedel said. “They might get a verbal problem, it might be verbal and hands-on, or they might be given props to use to solve it, and they have five minutes to create everything.

“The students are judged on teamwork, creative thinking and problem-solving ability,” she said.

The teams, their head coaches”Peter Schoedel, Jim Andrle and Cathy Walz”and their assistant coaches will be traveling to Colorado in May for the finals.