by Jackie Slaviero
What is Destination Imagination?
The vision of Destination Imagination (DI) is to be the global leader in teaching the creative process from imagination to innovation. DI’s mission is to develop opportunities that inspire the global community of learners to utilise diverse approaches in applying 21st century skills (creativity, collaboration, communications and critical thinking).
The Destination Imagination program is a fun, hands-on system of learning that fosters students’ creativity, courage and curiosity through open-ended academic challenges in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). The participants learn patience, flexibility, persistence, ethics, respect for others and their ideas, and the collaborative problem-solving process.
Within this global competition, Destination Imagination Australia teams are given the choice of a science, technology, service learning (outreach) or an engineering challenge to solve.
Why Destination Imagination?
I first heard about DI from a great mate, Spencer Kiper, who is one of those educators that you wished you had as a student and wins awards for his incredible work. I asked Spencer to tell me, out of all the programs he delivers, why DI.
“Destination Imagination offers so much to our youth, it’s hard to say what I love most about the program. However, if I were being honest, it inspires me to know that from all corners of the Earth, there are children working together to solve situations and problems that my own students are trying to solve. Competition aside, DI allows students the opportunity to take risks, innovate, and hone skills that make DI alumni some of the most creative and imaginative thinkers out there! I love being a Team Manager. So many of the members of the team I have managed continue to participate in DI as they head into high school, getting more and more comfortable with the people they are slowly becoming.”
Students who participate in DI are encouraged to not only think outside the box, but they are guided to believe there is no box. In the guidelines for Team Managers, Rules of the Road, there is a very simple rule – If it doesn’t say you can’t, you can.
Destination Imagination Lands in Australia
Because of Spencer, I took a ‘giant leap’ and signed to be the Affiliate Director of Destination Imagination Australia. It has been a whirlwind since then. Supported by the US Consulate and the US Embassy, in February we did a roadshow stretching from Sydney, through Canberra, to Melbourne. We ran a few workshops with teachers, teaching the DI Creative Process and instant challenges. The feedback was amazing. It was not too long before schools were signing up whole year groups to ‘do DI’.
It was also at this time we received financial support to take four teams to the Destination Imagination Global Finals in Knoxville, Tennessee. Destination Imagination Global Finals is an annual competition that assesses students’ problem-solving ability. The competition is in two parts – a long-term challenge that assesses problem solving within a particular domain, and an instant challenge where students are given a problem that they must solve and present the solution within five to 10 minutes. We took two high school teams from Parramatta Marist in Sydney and two primary school teams from Firbank Grammar in Melbourne to represent Australia for the first time in the history of Destination Imagination.
The students and teachers were fast tracked through the program in six weeks, with a lot of extra time outside of school hours. It is normally a 20-week program. This program is student-centric and teacher interference is not allowed. All the work is done by the students. Practising instant challenges and team building, as well as project management and budget constraints, pushed the students to be creative.
What the DI Team Managers Had to Say
Our teams were Radioactive Redbacks (Science) and the Fair Dinkum Dingoes (Engineering).
For the engineering challenge, In It Together, the team was required to design, build and test multiple freestanding structures that work together to support as much weight as possible. Teams also developed and presented a story in which characters from two nations worked together to solve a global issue. Marks were allocated for the ratio between the weight of the device and the weights held by the device. The device had to be between 10 and 25 grams. This presented a great challenge, as the example scoring weights were over 200 kilograms.
For the science challenge, Top Secret, the team was required to create and present a story about a secret mission, research and apply methods from cryptography and steganography to reveal secret messages and finally design and create a cryptographic device that encrypts and then decrypts a secret message which was given during the presentation.
For both challenges, we had the additional constraint of needing to fit all of our presentation materials and devices within our suitcases to travel to the US. This was an interesting constraint, as the engineering team even had to build themselves a mini esky to ensure that there was no effect of the changing temperature and altitudes on the plane. They learnt that materials also have different weights at different altitudes (Tennessee being slightly different to Sydney) and that humidity affects balsa wood.
The two teams were successful competing on a world stage and it was a great learning experience for all involved. International travel added another dimension to the learning experience for our students, as small things like changing money and getting on flights on time while managing to get all of the props and costumes onboard was a challenge.
A great way to broaden the mindset of students is to offer them a global experience in learning, as our world gets smaller and our connections get greater, students who have the opportunity to meet and greet similar minds on the opposite side of the world will experience a growth mindset far beyond that compared to a standard classroom. The engineering team was particularly successful, placing 30th in the world, with a final held weight of their structure at nearly 363 kilograms (800 pounds).
What a truly amazing experience Destination Imagination has been for our girls and for Meaghan and myself. Our teams were named Highly Koalafied and Green and Gold Goannas, both in the science discipline.
When we returned from the Global Finals, we launched straight back into school life – report writing and proof reading! It was not until the holidays that we really stopped and reflected on the experience. Destination Imagination is everything we believe about education and a whole lot more.
Thank you for allowing us to be a part of the Global Finals experience. I do not think Meaghan or I have ever worked so hard, yet nor have we ever been involved with something that has been so rewarding. We are truly grateful for your energy, enthusiasm and hard work that made the whole thing possible.
We are now ready to enter some more teams for the next round of Destination Imagination.
What the DI Student Participants Had to Say
“I definitely learnt to listen to people a bit more and make sure that everyone’s ideas are being incorporated into the final product.”
“The long-term challenge is basically the same as Year 11 Problem Based Learning, so it was similar to what I was already used to, but on a longer term. I think by undertaking this project, it has already helped me at school and going to Global Finals would also help in future modules.”
“I learnt from DI that if we had looked at other ways to approach the challenge, then we possibly would have scored many more points. I learnt that our collaboration skills are extremely vital to the success of our challenge.”
Where to from Here?
Straight after the Global Finals, both schools signed up many more teams to be involved with the 2017–18 program.
Schools all over Australia and New Zealand are invited to register their teams. The Destination Imagination Australia National Tournament will be held in November, so there is still time to become involved in this amazing program.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org for team registration, school visits and teacher professional development workshops.
Suggested links for further information:
Jackie Slaviero is the founder of One Giant Leap Australia. She is the international ambassador for the Honeywell Educators @ Space Academy program, the Space Camp USA ambassador, the Australian representative for Global Friendship Through Space Education program (Space Camp Turkey) and a National STEM consultant. She is on the advisory boards of Quberider, ELLA App, Pallas Advanced Learning Systems and Launchbox. Jackie can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @JackieSlav
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