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Friday, April 3, 2015

Central Jersey teams compete in Destination Imagination


Written by Carmine Liuzzi

Each year, Destination Imagination develops seven engaging open-ended challenges that are designed to bridge the gap between our digital and human ecosystem and what kids are learning in school.

Teams are comprised of up to seven students ages from kindergarten to college level. Each of the teams that participated on Saturday have worked together for several hours a week with a team manager who functions as a mentor since the fall to create and realize solutions to their selected Team Challenge. The solution must be created and implemented solely by the team members with no outside interference. Then, the teams present their solution in the form of a presentation with a time limit of eight minutes to a team of trained appraisers who appraise the team's solution for creativity, teamwork and overall approach.

Teams can select from one of seven open ended challenges that are developed each year. The challenges for this year were Creature Feature; a technical challenge, Making Waves; a scientific challenge, Lose to Win; a structural challenge, Feary Tales; a fine arts challenge, the Improv Games; an improvisational challenge, Brand Aid; a service learning challenge and Animal Mish Mash; an early-learning, noncompetitive challenge.

In addition to the required elements of each challenge, teams have the opportunity to highlight special skills or talents of the team by designating two team choice elements, which must be a unique part of the presentation and must have a meaningful connection to the team's solution to the challenge.

Each team at the tournament has one additional component to complete called an Instant Challenge, which are secret until the day of the tournament and may require the team to practice divergent thinking (out of the box creativity) or convergent thinking (in-the-box creativity) emphasizing teamwork and collaboration. These are divided into two types - performance-based where the focus is on working together as a team to create a theatrically oriented solution to the problem or task-based where the focus is having the team work together to move, build, change or protect materials in order to complete a task.

Scores from the Central Challenge, Team Choice Elements and Instant Challenges are combined into a total score and the winners identified for each level of each challenge. Thirty-eight of the competing teams have won the right to represent New Jersey at Destination Imagination's Global Finals, the world's largest celebration of creativity in Knoxville in May. They will be joined by over 1,400 other teams and over 18,000 attendees total from around the world.

This year, teams that chose Brand Aid, the community service challenge, worked on a wide variety of community needs which they identified. The DI Dogs 2.0, an elementary level team from Kinnelon, identified the Kinnelon Animal Shelter as the community partner they wanted to help. The shelter needed funds to purchase supplies to care for the animals in the shelter. They considered many different options and finally settled on a "Dynamite Night" where they offered a variety of games and events including duct taping their principal to the wall. The team raised over $300 to help the shelter.

The Conversationalists, a secondary level team from Ridge High School, chose to work with students for whom English was a second language. They created a Conversation Club as a safe place to help ESL students assimilate smoothly into school life. The team created games to help expose the ESL students to native English speakers and to understand the American culture. This also gave the English speaking students the opportunity to connect with other cultures.

Drive with Pride, an elementary level team from Wyckoff undertook a project to educate the community on the dangers of distracted driving. Several members of the team were either themselves involved in accidents or knew people in the community who had been in accidents where distracted driving was identified as the cause. The team developed a "Drive with Pride" brochure and handed them out to the community in order to increase awareness. They also developed a podcast to support their efforts.

Destination Imagination teaches participants curiosity, courage and creativity. The challenges invoke curiosity so that students develop an interest in their world and can imagine opportunities to improve it, courage is gained when they learn their unique strengths and abilities and then step outside their comfort zones to pursue ideas and make presentations, and creativity is gained when they take a novel idea of their own design through to fruition.

Destination Imagination is the world's largest not-for-profit organization dedicated to teaching students twenty-first century life skills such as critical thinking, collaboration, project management, budgeting and presentation skills for students in kindergarten through college. Annually, more than 200,000 students participate in Destination Imagination in 32 countries and 48 states. Destination Imagination has established partnerships with NASA, United States Space and Rocket Center, 3M, Oracle, Disney and Motorola Solutions to name a few. Additional information on the Destination Imagination program can be found at: www.destinationimagination.org

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