Working on 'What if?'

Imaginations drive students to state level of annual competition

Imaginations drive students to state level of annual competition

April 13, 2004|by KATE COLEMAN

Just imagine!

That's what dozens of Washington County students have been doing for several months. They are among thousands of students in 47 U.S. states and 14 countries who are part of Destination ImagiNation, a program designed to help strengthen problem solving, outside-the-box thinking and teamwork skills.

The kids - elementary, intermediate and high school students - imagine, but they just don't sit around and daydream.

They think, research, design, build and cooperate. They work on projects and presentations called "challenges" in five categories. Each has specific requirements, but they all leave plenty of room for creativity.

Creative problem-solving is what Destination ImagiNation is all about.

"It's really fun building stuff. You see your ideas become real, and they work," said Northern Middle School student Gillian Kramer, 13, who is working to meet the Destinations In Time challenge.


She was speaking, in particular, about the hourglass she and her teammates built. About 4 feet high, it is constructed of wood and clear plastic, complete with time-marking sand. The challenge requires that the device must keep time to accurately pinpoint the start of each of three required tasks.

"It works like a charm," said Gillian, who's been involved in the competition twice before.

Lauren Sandberg, 14, was fashioning the pink cape (formerly a tablecloth) to be worn by the wizard portrayed by Gillian in the required skit. In her fourth year of competition, Lauren said she loves the skit part.

Teammate Jessie Shuff, 13, had not been involved before, but she likes it.

"We laugh the whole time we're in here," she said. "It's so fun."

James Itell also thinks Destination ImagiNation is fun and said he just likes building stuff. He called it "brainwork."

He's working on the GuessDImate challenge, building a structure made completely of wood and glue. Team members must estimate how much weight it will hold.

"We've been testing a lot of things," said seventh-grader Nick Yaraghi, 13. "We have to figure out the perfect design."

Kids involved in the GuessDImate challenge also have to create a story of a situation in which guessing is a central theme.

"I like challenges, and this definitely is a challenge," said 12-year-old Star-Lena Quintana.

Her teammate Sana Siddiqui, also 12 and in seventh grade, enjoys going to the competition.

The two teams were hard at work last week in Technology Education teacher Mark Kaniski's classroom/shop. Two other teams were in an adjacent classroom; another was in the hall.

Kaniski is manager for the five Northern Middle School teams that made the cut to the state competition in Towson, Md., this weekend, and one which did not. The kids have been working since the end of September - three times a week for a couple of months, five times a week in December. Since January, teams have put in 10 to 30 hours a week.

Kaniski puts in as much time as the students, but he said they do the work. It is the kids who do all the designing and building, and that's according to Destination ImagiNation rules, Kaniski said. He's in his eighth year with the program and enjoys it. The only time he interferes is to teach the students how to use the equipment in his classroom and to remind them of safety rules.

"Goggles," he shouted at the sound of a band saw starting up.

Kaniski said he doesn't want to exclude any student, but he sets standards. Students must have at least a C average and they can't have referrals to the principal's office for behavior or other problems.

"What I like is it gives kids a chance to explore different things that they normally wouldn't get to explore," he said.

The Northern Middle teams will join eight other Washington County teams in state-level competition Saturday, April 17, at Towson University. Winners there will qualify for the "global" finals, scheduled for Wednesday, May 26, to Saturday, May 29, at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, Tenn.

For information about Destination ImagiNation, go to on the Web.

Washington County teams headed to state competition

Thirteen Washington County teams earned places in state-level Destination ImagiNation competition Saturday, April 17, at Towson University in Towson, Md.

Winners there will qualify for the "global" finals, scheduled for Wednesday, May 26, to Saturday, May 29, at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, Tenn.

Washington County teams include students at elementary, intermediate and high school levels of competition in the five challenges:

Destinations in Time

Northern Middle School 1
Northern Middle School 2
Smithsburg High School

The Plot and the Pendulum

St. Mary's School (intermediate)

Cartoon Dimensions

Emma K. Doub Elementary School
St. Mary's School (elementary)
Northern Middle School
St. Mary's School (intermediate)

Upbeat Improv

St. Mary's School (intermediate)
Northern Middle School


Clear Spring Elementary School
Clear Spring Middle School
Northern Middle School

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