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Photo by Dante Fontana
One of the most important life lessons for kids to learn is the importance of working together.
That is the priority aim of non-profit Destination ImagiNation (DI), an after-school initiative that emphasizes collaboration as a porthole to creative problem solving. Participating youth work in age-appropriate teams to find unique solutions to complex challenges, which they then present at regional tournaments and, if qualified to move on, the Global Finals.
Of the 1,031 teams representing 31 countries at DI’s 2010 global tournament, held this past May in Knoxville, Tennessee, three of them were from Roseville-area schools: Olympus Junior High, Cavitt Junior High, and Ridgeview Elementary. These local teams – a collective of sharp young minds, steady nerves and steely determination – placed 12th, 38th, and 24th, in their age and challenge categories, respectively, and prepared for approximately 12 weeks prior to their start of a tough but rewarding competition season.
Locally, this activity in ingenuity – DI encourages and unleashes the mad scientist lurking in all of us – is coordinated by educators and funded by Parent Teacher Clubs, the Eureka Unified School District, area service clubs, and private fundraisers. Although teachers are compensated for their time, team managers, tournament appraisers and others help on a volunteer basis.
“The most important thing about the DI experience is that the kids have the authority to make key and critical decisions,” says Elaine Arndt, a team manager for three years, and parent of a six-year DI participant. “They are tasked with using their experiences, skills and brainpower to solve multifaceted problems.” Team managers such as Arndt may facilitate the process but are not permitted to provide any part of the challenge solution, as interference results in team disqualification. Consequently, kids own the outcome of their efforts and in the end can demonstrate competency in a number of significant and character-building areas – teamwork, spontaneity, decision-making, reasoning, critical thinking, time management and communication.
A main challenge and instant challenge comprise the DI program. And though the main challenge changes every year, it consistently addresses five chief categories: Technical/Mechanical Design, Scientific Exploration and Theater Arts, Theater/Literature/Fine Arts, Improvisation, and Structural/Architectural Design. This intricate challenge involves and demands multiple levels of the aforementioned skills, which when used collectively, stretches and expands “possibilities” from merely open to limitless.
Despite the sophistication of the DI program, “It is really a celebration of kids’ creativity and energy,” Arndt explains. “Everyone is creative, but the daily rush to complete requirements at school doesn’t permit the free-form flow and exchange of thoughts and ideas that contribute to complex problem-solving.” Ultimately, DI embraces creativity and change, celebrates it through teamwork, and acknowledges that there is not one “right” solution to a problem, but many. Kids faced with DI-devised “problems” are provided a unique opportunity to make a significant contribution, both as independent thinkers and active team members through varying means, thought processes, experiences and backgrounds.
For more information about Destination ImagiNation, visit idodi.org.