DI teams head to globals

By Patricia Ann Speelman - pspeelman@aimmedianetwork.com

JACKSON CENTER — Two Jackson Center Elementary School teams will travel to Knoxville, Tennessee, Monday, May 22, for five days of competition in an international contest involving some 8,000 students from 15 countries.

They don’t play basketball. They don’t wrestle. They don’t run track and field. What they do is imagine.

The five students who comprise the team, Sixth Grade Sensations, and the seven who are the Seven Sassy Stagers have reached the highest level of competition in the Destination Imagination program. It’s the first time in the school’s history that any team has made it to the global finals.

Destination Imagination (DI) is a “leader in teaching the creative process from imagination to innovation. It develops opportunities that inspire the global community of learners to utilize diverse approaches in applying 21st-century skills and creativity,” according to its website, www.destinationaimagination.org.

“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 STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), fine arts and service learning. Our participants learn patience, flexibility, persistence, ethics, respect for others and their ideas, and the collaborative problem-solving process,” the website says.

In Jackson Center, nine teams under the leadership of Jackson Center teachers Amanda Barhorst and Suttan Barhorst and several parent volunteers attempted to meet the challenges put forth by DI. Seven teams competed in regional tests in March at Milton-Union School in Miami County. Three of those teams ranked high enough to move on to state competition in April in Mount Vernon. And two amassed points that will now take them to Knoxville.

The Seven Sassy Stagers, coached by Suttan, will present their solution to the Show and Tech challenge. They had to “present a show that includes an opening act and a headlining act; design and build a stage on which the acts will take place and that will move a team member from one location to another; enhance each act with a technical effect to amaze the audience; and create and present two … elements that show off the team’s interest, skills, areas of strength and talents.”

The Sixth Grade Sensations, coached by volunteer Penny Borchers, have chosen to tackle a Ready, Willing and Fable task. They were asked to “identify, design, plan and carry out a project that addresses a real community need; create a live presentation of a team-created fable that integrates information about the project; include an impact prop and a character that changes appearance; and create and present two … elements that show off the team’s interests, skills, areas of strength and talents.”

There are one third-grader, three fourth-graders and three fifth-graders on the Stagers team. They researched YouTube videos for ideas on how to make a platform move and eventually built a 3-foot by 6-foot platform, split in the middle, and on rollers. They attached a drill to the rollers on one side of the platform. The turning drill moves one half of the stage away from the other half. As that happens, an actor rises on a car jack behind a backdrop and appears through a break in the backdrop curtains.

“We wanted a soccer theme, so we put grass on the stage,” said third-grader Laurel Roberts, 9, daughter of Kendra and Steve Roberts, of Jackson Center. She and her teammates wrote a play about cheerleaders who get into and argument with each other. The peace goddess rises as the factions are moved away from each other, and she mends the situation and brings the friends together. The skit also incorporates a box from which a character disappears.

“We have Gatorade in a cup. The argument between the cheerleaders makes it look like one has been poisoned,” Laurel said. “She goes into a box. She goes behind a cardboard piece. The cheerleaders look for her but the peace goddess brings her back.”

The Sensations visited the Shelby County Animal Shelter and asked what they could do to help the animals there. When they learned that the shelter needed blankets to keep the dogs and cats warm, the sixth-graders organized a blanket-donation drive.

“We talked to the superintendent (of Jackson Center schools) and we made a letter that we put in (classrooms) all around the school,” said Carleigh Ross, 11, daughter of Tracey and David Ross, of Jackson Center.

“And we put it on Facebook and the website,” added her teammate, Maddy Lundy, 12, daughter of Donna Gold-Collett, of Jackson Center, and Michael Lundy, of Sidney.

“By the first day, the barrel was overflowing,” Suttan said.

“We had five garbage bags of blankets,” Maddy said.

But the team didn’t stop there. They cut up a few of the fleece blankets and made 25 ditty bags. They crafted dog toys and made copies of information they found on the Internet about how to care for dogs. They wrote to the Purina corporation and asked for coupons for pet food. Then, they filled the ditty bags with the toys, information and coupons and donated them to the shelter to give to people who adopt dogs.

The team wrote a skit, based on Aesop’s fable, “The Ant and the Dove,” to tell the story of their project. In the skit, a little boy goes to the shelter to look for his lost dog. Along the way, he sees a stray dog, so he asks at the shelter for a leash to capture the stray. The little boy is sad and lonely without his dog. He finds that the stray dog is sad and lonely, too, and doesn’t want to go to the shelter because it thinks there are no toys there to play with. But there are toys, so the stray dog is happy. And the boy finds his lost dog and is happy, too.

At the competitions, the teams have to participate in instant challenges as well as their practiced presentations.

“Kids walk into a room and have never seen the challenge before,” Amanda said. “They have five to 10 minutes to solve it.”

The sixth-graders ranked first in the instant challenge at the state level. How did they do it?

“Without teamwork, you don’t get anything done,” Maddy said. During the months of work before the contests, “we learn what people are good at,” Carleigh noted.

The whole DI experience has changed the students in good ways, they said.

“You can think more about stuff,” Laurel said.

“You think in a different way from in the classroom,” Carleigh said.

“When you’re in class, you have to think the way teachers think. In DI, you get to explore your imagination,” Maddy added.

And students are more confident.

“Sometimes, I think something but I don’t say it becaue it might get turned down. Now I say it and people listen,” Maddy said.

Carleigh agreed.

“I used to be super shy. Now, I’m going to globals. To me, it’s me getting out of my shell. I can be weird. It’s OK to be weird,” she said. “You learn to stick up for kids when others are mean to them …”

“Because they’re thinking outside of the box,” Maddy added.

The teachers notice the difference, too.

“We’ve seen a lot of kids who are super quiet. Now they’re braver in class situations, sticking up for their ideas,” Amanda said.

Others on the Stagers team are Paige Geuy, 11, daughter of Kristen and Ryan Geuy; Olivia Massengale, 11, daughter of Joy Klopfenstein and Kevin Sauriol; Keira McGowan, 10, daughter of Joyce and David McGowan; Avery Jackson, 10, daughter of Stephanie and A.J. Jackson; Brenna Lowe, 11, daughter of Loretta Schmiesing and Aaron Lowe; and Addison Montague, 9, daughter of Tammy and Chris Montague, all of Jackson Center.

Also comprising the Sensations team are LaKoda Massengale, 12, son of Joy Klopfenstein and Kevin Sauriol; Jacob Borchers, 12, son of Penny and Greg Borchers; and Mason Gross, son of Ginger and Ryan Gross, all of Jackson Center.



By Patricia Ann Speelman


Reach the writer at 937-538-4824.

Reach the writer at 937-538-4824.