Why the sky is the limit (and slightly stinky) with Destination ImagiNation

Last weekend, my first grader Hadley competed for the first time in Jefferson County Schools Destination ImagiNation Regional Tournament at Alameda High School.

Not familiar with Destination ImagiNation (DI)? Join the club.

Actually, “club” may not be the correct word for this international organization that caterers to kindergarten through university students. The concept is simple: teach life skills and expand imaginations through team-based creative problem solving.

Last year, our good friend Marshall Haymond’s fifth-grade team took it all the way to the top and placed second at Global Finals in Knoxville, TN. His positive experience motivated me to sign Hadley up when a notice was sent home at the beginning of the school year.

There are many different levels and newbie Haddie became part of the Rising Stars (kindergarten-2nd grade), the only non-competitive branch in DI. Four other classmates joined her after school each week as they formulated a skit based upon an official theme: “Big Bug’s Bad Day.”

The kids did everything themselves: researched the bugs they wanted to be, made their costumes, choreographed the script and memorized lines they made up. Parent-volunteer Lance Antieau was only there to guide, not instruct.

Which, let’s face it, is needed. First graders aren’t exactly known for staying on topic.

Leading up to the tournament, I have never seen Hadley more excited. Keep in mind this is the girl we’ve exposed to a myriad of activities like dance, skiing, swimming, soccer and art classes.

The difference, I believe, was that she ownedthis. She’s an imaginative and spirited kid who, for the first time, didn’t have a grown-up telling her what to do and how to do it. Instead, she spent the better part of the year making magic happen with her teammates on their own terms.

And you know what? They did on the day of the tournament. Haddie was the “big bug” (a monarch butterfly) whose bad day consisted of flying into a tree and breaking her wing. Her teammates’ role (a spider, katydid and stink bugs) was to fix it using their natural resources.

It wasn’t polished but it was informative and charming with first-grade potty humor thrown in for good measure (kind of hard to resist with stink bugs).

The second part of the day was an Instant Challenge that was designed to teach students how to quickly assess problem components and the steps necessary to resolve short-time issues.

For the competitive teams, only the students are allowed in the classroom but for Haddie’s level, parents were allowed to watch. Prior to doing so, each of us was required to raise our hands and make a pledge that we would not reveal the topic so as to give other teams an unfair advantage.

Silence ain’t exactly my virtue and I asked if there was a blogger clause (turns out there wasn’t).

During the Instant Challenge, I was thrilled to watch my take-charge-kinda daughter (read: bossy) work synergistically with her teammates. It was rewarding for me to see her newfound maturity and ability to take something ordinary and make it extraordinary.

The day ended with a rockin’ dance and awards ceremony. As we were driving home, I asked Haddie the best and worst things about her experience. “The best was doing our skit!” she exclaimed. “And the worst thing?” Long pause.

“Probably that we had to perform in a little classroom, not on the stage in front of a lot of people.”

Look out, Broadway.


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