Picture a school club in which every member gets what he or she needs. Shy kids break out of their shell and work alongside drama kings and queens. Natural-born leaders take charge but also learn to be a cog in the team wheel. Creative-types find that nothing is too quirky when it comes to art, and brainy-acs get to Zumba their minds.
Meet Destination Imagination, a competitive after-school club for elementary, middle and high school students. This yearteams from Liberty High School and Discovery Canyon Campus' elementary school, both in Academy School District 20, qualified for the Global Finals, May 19-24 in Knoxville, Tenn.
"It's like the Olympics for the world's most creative kids," said Kristi Hullings, manager for both teams that have advanced to the final level and coordinator for the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme at Discovery Canyon Campus.
The worldwide educational program, in its 31st year, tests students' creativity, problem-solving abilities and collaboration. Teams compete in one of six "challenges" involving science, technology, engineering and math skills.
Kids do everything - come up with the concept, develop characters, write the script, build the props, create costumes - and they can't get any help from teachers or parents. The team manager's role is to supervise, keep the students on task and take notes during brainstorming, Hullings said.
"I bite my tongue a lot - the most challenging part is not to be able to contribute ideas," she said.
Discovery Canyon Campus students Sam Moore, fifth grade; Shreya Krishnan, fourth grade, Lauren Jaworowsk, third grade; Emma Keating, fifth grade; Cullen McGee, fifth grade; and Liam Keating, third grade, are competing in the scientific challenge called "Going to Extremes." It's the most competitive category this year, Hullings said.
Students must act out an eight-minute skit depicting an extreme environment where humans could not normally survive without special gear.
After putting their thinking caps into overtime, students decided to personify the inside of a computer. They tore apart an old computer to figure out the components, which became the scientific characters, such as RAM (Random Access Memory).
They wear gear designed to prevent electrocution, avoid hazardous chemical components, handle the lack of air and deal with potential overheating hazards.
The plot takes a few twists when one character gets poisoned from eating a computer chip he thinks is a potato chip and another character wants to take over the computer and the world.
Students have been practicing weekly since January. Although this was the second consecutive year for a team from the school to earn a trip to the state competition by being one of the top winners at regionals, it's the first time they've placed high enough, second, to advance to globals.
"It's a big honor," Shreya said. "We get to compete for our city and state."
The best part of the project, she said, has been "hot gluing things" and making new friends.
Sam likes that everyone gets to let their imaginations "run wild."
The team also won an award for outstanding skill in engineering, design and performance. Judges said the team's creativity "brought computer components to life," and the whole presentation - props, characters, dialogue and dance - made a complete package to depict the extreme environment.
Liam thinks the team did so well because members give each other space to do what they do best.
"Everybody has a strong appreciation for different things," he said. "Sam and Emma are good at building, so they built the sets, and Emma, Cullen, Liam and me are good actors."
Emma said she learned that "If you put your good ideas together, it makes a great idea."