2017-18 Odyssey Angels

Big Cypress Elementary from Naples, FL was selected as the 2018 Odyssey Angels Project. This group helped to provide comfort to the homeless by creating and giving away sleeping mats.

They used many Odyssey skills –creative problem-solving, repurposing trash items, independent study, improving an existing idea, teamwork skills, public speaking, and much more --- to help the homeless population in their community. The team learned how to make “plarn”—strips of plastic bags that are weaved together to create the mats. Each mat uses over 500 plastic bags that might otherwise be discarded. These mats are thick and sturdy and will be sure to last a long time in the elements.

The team donated the mats to local homeless shelters. The team worked closely with a local shelter, St. Mathew’s House to be sure the mats would be useful. Ronnie Sopena, director of Volunteer Services for St. Mathew’s House, said of the project, “I know those that received mats were very appreciative of them and the care it took to make them. I can say this project is meaningful, impactful, empowering, and educational!”

The team also brainstormed ways to make the loom for the mats more efficient so they could make bigger mats quickly. Once they fine-tuned their process, the teams taught this technique to their local Easterseals organization, occupational therapy students from Keiser University, and more. They held events in coordination with their school and Odyssey of the Mind groups.

As enthusiasm spread, they decided to make the project even bigger. They created a tutorial on YouTube and a website to teach others how to make the looms, plarn, and to weave the mats. During World Finals the project went global, with everyone attending the Creativity Festival working together to create the mats. Eighteen were donated to a shelter in Ames and 9,000 bags were repurposed for this good cause!

These Angels proved that Odyssey’s creative problem-solving skills can truly make the world a better place. Not only did they help the homeless, but they helped others learn this skill to help spread their project throughout the community and beyond!