It’s all about creative, outside-the-box problem solving in a competitive arena, where innovation rules and cleverness leads to the prize.
Sporting team names Don’t Be Weirded Out!, Can’t Stop Dling!, and S.O.C.K., 21 Pike-Delta-York middle and elementary school students will travel to Kansas City, Mo., to strut their brain power at the Destination Imagination (DI) Global Finals, to be held May 21-25. The annual event will this year pit approximately 1,400 student teams from the United States, Canada, China, and a dozen other countries against one another in a contest of ingenuity and skill.
Three of the 13 PDY teams that survived both regional and state DI competitions have qualified for the international event. One of the teams, comprised of high school seniors, opted out, preferring to fully experience the end of their secondary education.
However, a fourth team from the school district was selected to participate in Kansas City through a DI lottery process.
Preceded by a similar program called Odyssey of the Mind, DI is a New Jersey-based non-profit educational organization that teaches students from kindergarten to the university level to solve creative challenges through a series of tournaments. In recent years, DI has affiliated with the Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) educational approach.
Jane Foor, PDY gifted and talented instructor in math and English-Language Arts for grades 4-8, has led the district’s DI teams for 29 years. “It is amazing what happens when (students) get together as a team and start bouncing ideas off of one another. It’s fun to watch the creative process,” she said.
Teams can choose from technical, engineering, fine art, improvisation, medical mystery, and service learning challenges. Each has a problem solving component requiring students to come up with fresh, inventive answers.
Two of the PDY teams attending the global event built structures for their engineering challenge that must endure weighted objects without damaging or breaking the structures. The added weight must also trigger a special effect on the structure during the presentation.
A PDY technical team designed and built an aircraft that must fly and land and drop a payload onto a floor target.
Winners at the global competition receive a trophy, a medal, “and, of course, bragging rights,” Foor said.
The school district saw its best DI finish five years ago, when a group of fifth graders placed third out of 89 teams. Last year, a PDY team placed 11th out of 83 teams.
Michele Tuck-Ponder, DI executive director and former mayor of Princeton, N.J. said DI’s project-based challenges complement classroom curriculum.
“In addition to being STEAM-based, our challenges help students to build their confidence and learn essential skills for their future careers and beyond, including creative and critical thinking, communication, collaborative problem solving, and project management,” she said.
Foor said DI students “love to create and try different things, come up with solutions they think are unique and outside the box. They have in the back of their mind, is this unique, is this different, is it creative. The challenges have become more complex…In order to keep up with that, the students have to come up with more complex solutions.”
Seventh grade student Joel Arroyo-Sierra, whose nickname within the DI teams is “The Building Machine,” has been a member for four years. In his second year he began building structures for the engineering challenge.
“That sparked the flame of wanting to be an architect,” he said. “I started being more observant as we drove around, and I started applying what I saw with buildings to my structures.”
Another seventh grader, Morghyn Tippens, liked the idea of creatively solving problems.
“I have been on two DI teams these last two years. I wanted to challenge myself to see if I could do well with this pressure,” Morghyn said.
Eighth grade student Leigh Morris said she’s interested in DI’s creative problem solving challenges. “I like the life skills that I have learned,” she said.
The PDY school district has participated in DI activities for over 30 years. Beginning in October, a total of 79 PDY students took part in this year’s after school program. They included several students from the school district’s talented and gifted program, but all students are invited to join.
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.