Destination Imagination team

Chilliwack students set course for Destination Imagination

A team from East Chilliwack Elementary School is heading to Tennessee for the global finals of Destination Imagination's Challenge program.

An instant challenge to build a bridge out of straws, aluminum foil, and a plastic container in order to join two chairs in the school principal’s office excited a flurry of activity, serious deliberations, and single-minded teamwork.

The “Crazy Cheeseheads” team of Grade 3 and 4 boys from East Chilliwack Elementary School are heading to Tennessee, U.S., in May to compete in the global finals of Destination Imagination’s Challenge program, a competitive educational program in which student teams solve assigned tasks.

During a practice challenge at school on Tuesday, Landon Johnston, Josiah Hansen, Miles Rose, Hayden Dahlby, and Riley Zacharias had one minute to plan the bridge, and four minutes to execute — all carefully timed by Landon’s mom and team coach, Nicole Johnston.

“I think we can use these to connect to stuff and put stuff over it,” said Hayden, pointing to the plastic straws.

“Then we can make an arch,” added Miles.

Hayden said that would get them extra creativity points.

Although the resultant formation of straws taped between chairs might not look like much, the nine- and ten-year-old boys were tremendously proud of their creation, and elated through the process.

“It takes them out of classroom learning and into real, creative group work,” explained Miles’ mom Anne Russell of the program.

A 2011 University of Virginia study found that DI students scored higher in creative thinking, critical thinking and collaborative problem solving than their non-DI counterparts.

The global finals draw over 1,100 teams from 13 countries, and 15,000 attendees. That’s out of 125,000 program participants globally.

Students prepare for global finals for Destination Imagination's Challenge programIn Tennessee, the Crazy Cheeseheads will have to solve two challenges. The first will have participants creating and acting out a story about how they would adapt in a hypothetical world reality, such as “there is no gravity.” The second is usually a more physical challenge, such as using clay to create a 3-D map.

While it may seem confusing to adults, the kids understand the challenges perfectly, and revel in the absolute creativity of solving a task outside of rules and boundaries. The program teaches teamwork, and creativity, and problem-solving.

“It’s such a great creative outlet for them,” said Nicole. “The whole movement in schools right now is moving towards collaborative thinking. Putting people in groups, and working together.”

Destination Imagination’s global success isn’t surprising to the five boys from East Chilliwack.

“You get to expand your mind, be silly with it, be creative,” said Josiah.

For Riley, the draw is the improvisation.

“I love acting,” he said. “I’ve been in plenty of plays. That’s pretty much why I love D.I.”

You win at globals “by using lots of enthusiasm and not fighting,” explained Riley, who is the only boy unable to attend globals because of a simultaneous family vacation. “It’s improv, you can’t fight. Sometimes you don’t know what people are thinking, you have to play along.”

For Landon, a bonus was overcoming his fear of being in front of an audience.

The team is fundraising for the trip, with a goal to raise about $7,000 before the global competition on May 22–25 in Knoxville, TN. They’ll be selling raffle tickets at Cottonwood Mall on May 17, 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., at the Sutton kiosk. The day after, they’ll hold a car wash and hot dog BBQ at Sutton Group (9240 Young Road), where coach Nicole works. And team sponsors will receive their logo in a “Thank You” ad in The Progress in May.

For more information about the program or to sponsor, contact Nicole Johnston at 604-793-7686.

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