It’s the start of the school year, and my kids are talking about which clubs they want to join. My son does 100 Mile Club because he likes to be active. My oldest daughter does Destination Imagination, and it’s a club I really recommend if you want to help your child be more creative.
Every school year, Destination Imagination puts out a variety of challenges for teams of children to work on. There are regional and state competitions in many areas, and an annual world competition for teams that make it that far.
What’s really wonderful for the kids’ creativity is that the work must be entirely done by them. Adults shouldn’t even give them ideas for what to do. The kids sign a statement at competitions saying that all work is their own – having an adult help can disqualify the team. Adults can teach kids skills needed, but the kids have to figure out what they need to learn and ask for it.
The challenges the kids can choose from change from year to year. There are some basic types – fine arts, technical, scientific, structural, improvisational and service learning, as well as a challenge for younger elementary kids. Each challenge will require a variety of skills – the fine arts challenge may still involve building a device. The technical challenge may still involve storytelling.
The solutions the kids come up with are amazing. The kids not only have to present their solution to the challenge they picked, they have to solve an Instant Challenge as well. Teams practice for the Instant Challenges at team meetings, but you never know what challenge your team will face. There are penalties for revealing what happened at an Instant Challenge after you’ve taken it, and the revelation can impact more than your own team, so keeping the secret until after the World Competition is a huge deal, even if your team isn’t going that far.
There is an adult managing each team, but the job is to help them keep focused, not build, not give ideas, etc. I did that job for my daughter’s team last year, and I may or may not do it again this year – depends on if they need me. It’s quite the commitment. Interesting to do, and you get to see things the other parents won’t.
One thing I really have to emphasize is the need for parental involvement. Not in what the kids are doing, but in making competitions possible. Each team has to provide volunteers at competitions – how many depends on which competition. Destination Imagination runs on volunteers, so if you want your kids to do this, you need to step up as well. It’s sometimes hard to get enough parent volunteers per team, even though the competition volunteer requirements are just for the days of the competition, plus training days. Make sure your team gets volunteers as soon as possible.
Parent volunteers may be chosen to appraise challenges. My husband keeps ending up with this role. He’d like to just watch sometime, but as I said, it’s tough to get enough volunteers, so he keeps ending up with it, being less reluctant to help out than others. Not that appraising isn’t interesting – he really enjoys it – it’s just that he’d like to see our daughter’s team perform too some year. Only time he got out of it was when he developed a kidney stone a day or so before the competition and was in too much pain to help out. The DI folks were really understanding about that.
If you aren’t a team manager, your role as a parent with a child in DI probably isn’t all that difficult. You may need to help buy supplies – don’t worry, the budget is really reasonable so you shouldn’t have to spend a fortune. Some team managers handle buying all the supplies, but I preferred to encourage my team to be more resourceful so the costs didn’t all fall on me when I was a team manager. But most of the building will take place during team meetings, probably weekly after school until the competition gets close and the kids realize they’re way, way behind, then they suddenly need you to get them to meetings on weekends at the manager’s home, and they’re scrambling to get it all together. Somehow it usually works out just fine.