Destination Imagination (DI) develops creativity. Stretches creativity. Even forces creativity. From the start, teams practice instant challenges. An “instant challenge” is just what it sounds like: no time to think too much about what your team creates in response to the prompt. Instant challenges keep the mind nimble and teach team members to work with one another, quickly, trusting each other to do their role. Learning how to do an instant challenge is not instant though. This year three teams of seven third, fourth and fifth graders are figuring out how to be a team – how to communicate, collaborate and cooperate – and instant challenges fast track a team’s camaraderie and working relationship.
At one of the early practices run by Jeremy and Jessica Jacobsen, a team sat in a circle on the floor reading an instant challenge. Using the materials available – markers, paper, scissors, tape – the team had to create a play set in a garden, with something unexpected happening to the garden. Five minutes to plan, two minutes to perform. DI parameters are tight. Coaches may not guide the creative process so kids who might turn to a teacher for help must now rely on their own ideas, or their peers. This takes practice. Part of practice is falling short.
The garden did not grow. During the five minute prep time, the team talked over one another, argued a little, reached no consensus on the garden surprise. A couple of team members worked alone to cut flowers from the paper, missing conversation about the performance. The first minute of performance was spent hastily planning the performance which was less performance and more wild improv. Really, it can only get better, and that’s the point. Mr. and Mrs. Jacobsen gathered the team together to talk about the instant challenge task, what went well, and what needed to be improved. The team talked about how to carefully read a task prompt, the different roles (like materials manager or timekeeper) each person can play to make sure the task is completed.
I joined DI because my mom dared me. She knew I would enjoy the challenges.
– Brandon, grade 4
“Want to try again?” asked Mrs. Jacobsen. Mr. Jacobsen readied a second challenge, another performance task, and the group behaved in a different way. Team members listened to one another, checked the time remaining, assigned jobs, and presented a play that held together.
I wanted more of a challenge than just studying at home. This is different than writing on paper. This isn’t just for winning. It’s also just for fun.
– Soyoon, grade 4
At another practice, coaches Gene MacLachlan and Moon Jung asked their team to set guidelines for their meeting time.
Use positive language!
Use time properly – stay on task!
For the next few months, they will reference these guidelines as they practice instant challenges and build their team challenge. Each Pangyo elementary team chose a different team challenge. Mr. MacLachlan and Ms. Jung’s team chose Game On. Mr. Jacobsen’s team is working on Monster Effects, and Mrs. Jacobsen’s team picked On Target. Each group will have until the Korea DI competition in February to ready their team challenge.
But on this afternoon, Mr. MacLachlan offers a silly game. Make 3D shapes with your bodies. One girl decides the group will make a triangular prism and directs her peers to make lines and angles with their arms and legs. Much like Mr. and Mrs. Jacobsen’s instant challenge task, this is a chance for team members to see how they work together, and to later decide how to work better together. When the group realizes they were making a pyramid, not a prism, they talked about what information they needed to know before starting. When Mr. MacLachlan asked why the team used their whole bodies to make shapes – why not make a shape using just arms or hands? – the team talked about being flexible in their approach to a task.
Learning how to work together and be flexible may be the first DI challenges for each team. Throughout the DI season, we’ll check in with the three teams to see what they are learning, and we’ll follow them through competition.
What made it look fun? Video clips. All the cool things featured on DI US.
– Nathan, grade 5
To learn more, explore the Destination Imagination site.