Destination ImagiNation

Middle schoolers work together to build skills

Middle schoolers work together to build skills

March 11, 2003|by KATE COLEMAN

Seven Clear Spring Middle School students have been working together twice a week since last fall.

Members of "Team One" are not helping each other with homework. They are not practicing basketball drills or making student government resolutions.

Seventh-graders Asya Brown, Mackenzie Blair, Kyle Byrne, Sarah Holler, Derek Reichard, Adam Reid and eighth-grader Kyle Reese have spent approximately 100 hours being creative. They've been trying to build a totally wooden structure held together without glue. They've created a script, a song, a set, props and costumes to meet the Destination ImagiNation challenge and compete in the tournament that begins at 9 a.m. Saturday, March 15, at South Hagerstown High School.

Dan Henderson, a fifth-grade teacher at Lincolnshire Elementary School in Hagerstown, is regional and tournament director for Destination ImagiNation, a competition for elementary through high-school students. "I've been doing creative problem solving all week," he laughs.


Thirty-four teams, 18 from Washington County, 16 from Frederick County, Md., will compete for a chance to go to state competition at the University of Maryland and from there to global competition.

More than 200,000 students in 47 states and 15 countries and Canadian provinces participate in Destination ImagiNation every year, according to information from the organization.

The program is designed to help strengthen problem solving, outside-the-box thinking and teamwork skills. Teams of two to seven members work, with the help of a manager, on two types of challenges. The Central Team Challenge is structural, technical or theatrical and takes several months to solve.

Instant challenges are improvisational and designed to stimulate the team's ability to think quickly and creatively to prepare solutions in minutes.

Asya, 13, likes the unpredictability of Destination ImagiNation. The Instant Challenges are hard because you never know what it will be.

"I think I think better when I have time limits," Asya says. "You don't have time to second-guess yourself. You have to go with it."

Her team is doing the structure challenge, ConnectDID! Their team manager, Patty Blair, has been involved with Destination ImagiNation before, always in the structure challenges. Blair also is working with two other Destination ImagiNation teams this year. Two years ago, one of the teams she worked with went to global competition in Knoxville, Tenn.

"It's wonderful," she says.

Teamwork is the common thread among the challenges. The kids get a score on it.

"It helps to know your teammates," says Mackenzie, 12.

The structure challenge is hard. No computer-based or software designs can be used. The structure can't weigh more than 50 grams. That's just slightly more than a snack-size bag of potato chips, Blair says.

The structure must hold weight and is scored by its weight ratio - the amount of weight divided by the weight of the structure. A 10-gram structure that holds 100 pounds would have a weight ratio of 10, Blair says.

The challenge is not easy, but Derek, 12, likes building the structures. Making up the programs and memorizing lines is fun, he adds.

"I like doing things that are challenging," says 12-year-old Sarah. She says her team is pretty good at instant challenges.

Adam, 13, likes the building part of the challenge. Like several of his teammates, he got involved in elementary school when the assistant principal told him about Destination ImagiNation.

Kyle Reese, 13, the team's eighth-grader, is new to the team, as well as the school. His family moved to Clear Spring from Puerto Rico. Destination ImagiNation is something different to do after school, he says. "It's fun."

Kyle Byrne is in his fourth year of Destination ImagiNation. He says he's not talkative, and the presentation part of the competition is the hardest part for him. Building structures is what he enjoys most.

That doesn't surprise him; he wants to be an architect when he grows up.

But Kyle has learned something through Destination ImagiNation.

"You should really never say no to an idea. You should always try it," he says.

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