May 10, 2013 Updated: May 10, 2013 at 6:20 pm
DIVIDE Donna Frick's gifted and talented kids have gone wild. Now, they're being rewarded for their animal antics.
A pantomimed skit about an enchanted pet shop has earned three fourth graders and one fifth grader at Summit Elementary School in Divide a trip to Destination Imagination's global finals. The worldwide educational program, celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, tests students' creativity, problem-solving abilities and teamwork.
After a first place win at a regional tournament in March and third at state in April, the students are traveling to the University of Tennessee, May 22-26. They'll compete against a record-setting 1,419 teams that have advanced to the finals, out of an initial 15,000 teams.
It's the first time a group from Woodland Park School District Re-2 has gotten this far in competition, said Frick, the gifted and talented education teacher at Summit.
'They've worked really hard and deserve this, ' Frick said.
Summit students Samuel Faux, Abby Woods, William Nickelsburg and Thad Saylor will compete in the 'In Disguise Challenge, ' one of seven contests that require participants to apply science, technology, engineering and math skills.
Known as the 4 Meagles, a takeoff on the school's Eagles mascot, the team worked from a set of directions: create a play six minutes or less in length that's completely non-verbal and features a character in disguise.
Unlike a lot of school projects, the students could not solicit any help from teachers or parents.
'They had to do research on masks, use the hot glue gun to build a set, they even made money with their faces on it, ' Frick said
The students used their imaginations to invent the plot, write the script, build props, design costumes, find silent movie-type music and incorporate other elements that they tweak for each performance.
'It was hard - we had so many different ideas, ' Samuel said.
Even harder, said Thad, is not talking during the play, but instead finding ways to replace words with actions.
A fun twist in the plot is that when characters put on a mask, they become the animal depicted. A cat, dog, snake and bird make an appearance, as do the police.
Abby said the cat-and-bird chase is the toughest part because it gets tiring to practice - something the children have been doing every week for months.
The students have worked tirelessly, said William's mom and team coach, Marci Nickelsburg, meeting before school and during the gifted and talented period.
When asked what they've learned from the experience, all four students respond with 'how to get along. '
'As a team, we've grown a lot, ' Abby said.
And they attribute that sense of teamwork as helping them do so well at tournaments.
The 4 Meagles also have been fundraising to defray travel costs. They sold popcorn to classmates, hosted a hat day where students could wear hats at school if they paid 50 cents and asked local businesses for sponsorship.
Also competing in this year's finals are teams from Calhan High School in Calhan and Steele Elementary in Colorado Springs.