By Sarah Freedman, Contributing Writer
Shrewsbury – For 12 years, the Destination ImagiNation (DI) program has been taking kids places. They have learned skills from problem-solving and teamwork to innovative challenges taught there.
Carol Geary, the coordinator for the Shrewsbury chapter along with her husband, David, has been involved with the DI program for more than 15 years. All four of her sons, who range in age from 12 to 25, have participated in DI. Her son, Timothy, is in ninth grade, and his older brothers, Joseph and Adam, were also part of DI. Adam is an appraiser at the regional tournament held by DI every March.
Carol, who has coordinated DI in Shrewsbury for two years and participated in chapters in Vermont and Oregon, said teamwork is a key factor in the program.
“The goal of the program is to foster creative problem-solving and to teach children to work in teams to solve challenges, learn team-building skills and to foster thinking outside of the box.”
The way that the kids learn teamwork is by doing challenges. There is one central challenge, which can be focused on structural, technical, fine arts, scientific or improvisational areas, and many short-term smaller ones.
According to Carol, students in kindergarten to second grade are called “Rising Stars” and have separate challenges from the older kids. Teams in grades three through 12 can pick from the same five challenges.
The levels at the tournament are grouped into elementary (third to fifth grade), middle (sixth to eighth grade) and high school (freshmen to seniors), she said, and the students in each team work together independently to complete the challenge.
“In solving their challenges, teams learn the elements of their team challenge, whether it is how to build a balsa wood structure to hold weights, how to design a solar project or how to make a movie trailer to represent the interactions between two cultures,” Carol said. “The team researches and creates the elements of their challenge, including side trips that highlight the team's special talents and skills.”
The regional tournament lasts for one day and will take place Saturday, March 3, 2012, at Millbury High School, where the Shrewsbury teams will compete with others from surrounding towns.
“Top-scoring teams will go on to compete at the state tournament March 31 at Worcester Polytechnic Institute,” Geary said. “Top teams can then compete at the DI globals in late spring in Tennessee, where teams come from all the states and other countries around the world.”
She added that a team from Shrewsbury qualified and competed at globals two years ago. This year, 11 teams from Shrewsbury, including two primary, six elementary, two middle school and one high school teams, will travel to the regional tournament.
Several students in the sixth and seventh grades from Oak and Sherwood middle schools, including Geary's son Benjamin, a seventh-grader, will participate.
Jason Lemoine is doing DI for the first time.
“[it is] fun to get to use your imagination to solve challenges,” he said.
Arunima Chatterjee has been in DI for five years.
She likes that “you can be really creative” and she “is excited to perform in front of an audience what you'se been working on for the past months.”
Nathan Petrangelo participated in DI last year.
“It was exciting to go to the state DI tournament at WPI,” he said.
Carol said DI is about the “process the team takes to get to the tournaments,” as well as the day of the tournaments.
“It is hoped that all teams that attend will proudly present what they have been working on with their challenge,” she said. “Tournaments are exciting, energy-filled events with a lot of time spent viewing and cheering on other teams.”
She called DI a “wonderful program that our family has been in involved with for over 15 years now.” She and her husband have been “honored” to coordinate and bring DI to new families in the community.
“DI would not be possible without the great parents in our community who volunteer as team managers for our teams,” she added.
Registration for DI closed and teams were formed in October. The program will take registrations in September 2012 and usually runs until March. For more information or to get involved, visit www.madikids.org or www.idodi.org.