Spontaneous is that part of the competition that team members really gest to shine and share those creative thinking skills that coaches get to see though the long-term problem process. Solving spontaneous problems team members get to “think on their feet” and quickly “think outside of the box.” These problems are “TOP SECRET” and only the team members that enter the room get to know the secret. What’s better for students than knowing something their parents don’t know? Teams participating in the same long-term problem and division will solve the same spontaneous problem, so, to ensure fairness, it is critical that no one discusses the problem outside of the room until all teams have competed.

The nature of the spontaneous problems varies, with each having its own set of specific rules that are read to the team in the competition room. Teams will have to solve only one type of spontaneous problem in a competition. So teams should be prepared for any of the three types of spontaneous problems. Teams should practice for the three common types of spontaneous problems as listed below. However, the team should also be prepared for the unexpected; this is Odyssey of the Mind.

  • Verbal spontaneous problems require verbal responses. They may incorporate improvisation or dramatization. Teams are scored for common and creative responses.
  • Hands-on spontaneous problems require teams to physically create a tangible solution. Each hands-on problem has its own specific scoring categories.
  • Verbal/hands-on spontaneous problems require teams to create a tangible solution and include some type of verbal component, for example, creating a story about the solution. Teams are scored for both the tangible solution and the verbal presentation.

All seven team members may participate in the spontaneous portion of the competition.

For spontaneous, be sure to practice, practice, and practice. Here are some tips from Odyssey of the Mind for practicing spontaneous:

  • Teach team members to listen. They should not “think ahead” and presume what the problem requires; they should listen carefully until the judge finishes reading the entire problem.
  • Brainstorm verbal responses. Ask the students what made them respond the way they did, then develop that skill further.
  • Improvise non-traditional uses for various items.
  • Familiarize team members with various materials and their uses.
  • Practice building structures out of common materials such as toothpicks, paper cups

(Taken from Problems from Creative Interaction, by Dr. C. Samuel Micklus & Samuel W. Micklus.)

Here you will find several resources that may help prepare a team for spontaneous.

Odyssey of the Mind – National website

This is the national website for the Odyssey of the Mind program.

Spontaneous Problems Archived from Virginia

Archived Spontaneous Problems from the VA Odyssey of the Mind website.

Spontaneous Problems Galore

Northeast Pennsylvania’s Spontaneous Problems

Georgia Spontaneous Site

Spontaneous problems from Georgia

Arizona Archive Spontaneous Site

Archived spontaneous problems from the Arizona Odyssey of the Mind.

Tennessee’s Spontaneous Site

Spontaneous problems from Tennessee

Pinterest Odyssey of the Mind Spontaneous Problems

This is a Pinterest site where several ideas come together.