Deb Wagner
Freelance Writer
January 25, 2017 // Local

Destination Imagination teaches teamwork, problem solving

Deb Wagner
Freelance Writer

Destination Imagination is an international organization that encourages student use of problem-solving skills in a competitive environment. Students in first grade through university level are encouraged to participate.

In September of each year, Destination Imagination releases five problem-solving challenges for the year. Each challenge pertains to one of five areas of focus: science, technology, engineering, fine arts or improvisational. Teams of up to seven students form by the first part of October to address one of the challenges, supervised by parents who serve as team managers.

The students on a team must collectively decide which one of the five challenges they want to solve. Whatever challenge is decided upon becomes the team’s “Main Challenge” for competition later in the school year.

The students work together in the months that follow. They do all of the work, such as developing a skit and making costumes if the chosen challenge pertains to the performing arts. The team managers provide guidance if, for example, the students need to know how to operate a sewing machine or power tool for their skit.

In addition to the Main Challenge, students face an “Instant Challenge” when they arrive at competition. The Instant Challenge is worth 25 percent of the team’s final score. It requires a team to enter a room in which they’ll find miscellaneous supplies such as straws, cups and paper. The team members are given a random challenge from one of the categories and four to five minutes to develop a plan to resolve the challenge, followed by two minutes to complete it. They learn to think outside the box, solve problems, work as a team and think on their feet through these tasks. During the Instant Challenge time, team managers are not allowed to speak, make gestures or assist in any way. They do, however, introduce concepts (such as, for example, the fact that paper is made stronger when it is folded) during their meetings throughout the school year, in order to prepare the students for this part of the competition.

Destination Imagination International holds a regional, state, and global competition each year. The regional competition is held at the end of February. For the purpose of regional competition, the state of Indiana is divided into groups of schools in the northern half of the state and schools from Indianapolis south to the Indiana-Kentucky state line. The top two teams from the respective age groups within each Main Challenge advance to the state competition in April, and the global competition the week before Memorial Day.

At the global competition students and team managers stay Tuesday through Sunday at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville campus. There are 17 countries and 45 states represented at the global competition. During the application for global competition, if they are selected to be paired with a buddy team, students take small gifts representative of their city or country to exchange with those students.

During the day students prepare for competition, compete or watch others compete. The teams also design and exchange pins with other teams in order to develop communication skills. They are encouraged to ask each other questions during the pin exchange, such as, “What challenge are you doing?” and “Where are you from?” Many evening activities and entertainment options are planned for the students as well, including opening and closing ceremonies.

Students from St. John the Baptist School, New Haven, have represented the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend and the Fort Wayne area at global competition during three of the last four years, and eight or nine of the 17 years the Destination Imagination Challenge Program has been in existence. Linda Shepherd and Lisa Litchfield have acted as the school’s team managers for Destination Imagination teams for all of the 17 years.

“I think Destination Imagination is very valuable,” said Litchfield. “It definitely prepares students for future college and job interviews, and any type of life situations involving teamwork and communication.”

Students who do not attend St. John the Baptist School may still join its Destination Imagination teams. Anyone interested in becoming involved in Destination Imagination, or individuals wanting to make a donation to offset the cost of travel to competitions, may contact St. John the Baptist Parish office at 260-493-4553.

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