There are no limits to what your mind can come up with given the right tools.
Those who have participated in the program Destination Imagination know this well, thanks to the many hectic but thoughtful projects that have originated from it, and the activity has made a welcome return to Northwest Colorado these past few months.
Three teams from Craig qualified for Destination Imagination’s state event following the Western Slope Regional Tournament held March 15 in Rifle. A total of eight groups from elementary- to middle-school ages attended the competition thanks to funding from Shell’s Start-a-Team campaign, which began last fall.
But what exactly is Destination Imagination?
The short answer: an educational program.
The long answer: an educational program with a mission to “develop opportunities that inspire the global community of learners to utilize diverse approaches in applying 21st century skills and creativity,” according to the organization’s Web site.
Even this description doesn’t fully explain what goes on in competitions, which you need to see to believe.
In a tournament, students as young as 4 are given a challenge in a subject, including science, engineering and art, depending on what type of category their team has signed up to do. During the challenge, they must put together a presentation based on what they have learned in the topic.
Michele Chalmers oversaw a team of seven kids in their challenge, “Going to Extremes,” which consisted of creating a visual story about an extreme environment, being as accurate as possible recreating the scene and what it would take to survive there.
In this case, the setting was Jupiter, and though the biggest planet in our solar system has no extraterrestrial lifeforms — as far as we know — the concept already was somewhat familiar to the team.
Chalmers’ team, the Speerdogs, was made up of second- through fourth-graders from East, Ridgeview and Sunset elementary schools, and it took some time in the preparatory stages for them to mesh, though probably less time than it would take an Earthling and an alien.
“They learned in a group situation how you get your idea across and listen to others,” Chalmers said. “At that age, everybody wants to be right, but they have to learn to work in a group, and even adults sometimes struggle with that.”
Two of Chalmers’ sons started out bickering but wound up learning to communicate better through Destination Imagination, she said.
A wide range of ages also was found in the all-girl team from Sunset, Cool 6, whose members argued a lot at first. Cool 6 participated in the event “Pandemonium!” which involved improvisational acting and creating characters from a specific historical period, including makeup.
With three fifth-graders, two fourth-graders and one first-grader, it took some time to figure out the best way to do things, but now all of them agree they’ve “got each other’s backs.”
Smaller projects called Instant Challenges also test how effectively players work as a team. Parents, teachers or anyone else in charge are forbidden from assisting in the work, even signing a document to that effect.
“There’s really nothing like that geared to where kids can do just what they want, “ Chalmers said.
Cool 6 took first place in their event and age group at the Rifle event, and the Speerdogs and the Craig Middle School team Pink Armadillos each placed second. Other Moffat County teams included the Annoying Angry Birds — who were there non-competitively — the Bob Bears, the Sandrockers, Band of Tobuscus Mathlete and the Electrified Chocolate Brainiac Snowflake Elf Minions, showing imagination begins as early as the naming phase.
Because of athletics, the members of Pink Armadillos will be unable to attend the state competition in Denver on April 12, but the other two qualifiers are looking forward to it a lot, even if it might be more competitive.
This is the first year in more than a decade that Craig schools have participated in Destination Imagination events — which in previous years also was known as Odyssey of the Mind — and, provided funding isn’t an issue, they’ll have an even better grasp on how to utilize the program next year.
“It was quite a learning curve, but there was so much enthusiasm going on that all the glitches didn’t seem to matter very much,” said organizer Vera Turner. “The team leaders are anxious to keep this going.”
Cool 6 members and Sunset fourth-graders Emma Jones and Abbe Adams said they hoped to follow the advice of Destination Imagination leaders, who suggested a goal of growing membership by five people next year.
“We don’t want DI to just be a thing that you hear about from people,” Jones said. “It’s great because you can show off your brain.”
“I would recommend it for anybody because if there’s something that’s not right for you, there’s a ton of other challenges that could be perfect,” she said.
Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@CraigDailyPress.com or follow him on Twitter @CDP_Education.