Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Destination Imagination needs volunteers to help students learn and grow

While most of the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have subsided or vanished all together, some organizations are still facing challenges.

One such group is the Trinity Valley North Central Region of Destination Imagination. It includes the Lewisville and Denton ISD’s as well as school districts in Coppell, Carrollton-Farmers Branch, Decatur, Highland Park and Richardson, plus area private, charter and homeschools.

Destination Imagination is a non-profit organization that provides educational programs for students to learn and experience creativity, teamwork and problem solving. Teams of 2-7 students meet after school to design and present their solutions to STEAM challenges (science, technology, engineering, fine arts, and math) at annual tournaments. It is a 1999 program split off from Odyssey of the Mind launched in 1978 by Dr. Sam Miklus.

Before 2020 it was thriving locally with more than 80 teams of kindergarten through college age Lewisville ISD students participating in annual tournaments. This year there were only about 10 – not so much due to a lack of participants, but a major reduction in the number of people volunteering to help since the pandemic.

“We had enough teams to fill a tournament just with school districts but with COVID it was hard to do it online,” said Charlene Matthews of Flower Mound, who serves as challenge master for the Rising Stars regional group. “And more and more school districts are incorporating our philosophy of learning by doing, hands-on and collaboration. So, they are doing more of that as part of their curriculum which means they are funding less.”

To address the issues, parents, teachers, and other adults are needed to serve as team managers who receive extensive training. People also are sought for a variety of tasks at each tournament and volunteers don’t even need to have kids in school.

“Our problem is finding enough parents that want to do this,” said Flower Mound resident Monika Brink, a regional tournament director. “You should see your kids when they are on a team and see how he or she lights up. Once we get people to volunteer, they get bitten by it. It’s not a lot of time. But it’s amazing to see how creative the kids are and how they can express themselves outside of school.”

Texas is among 36 states with programs which extend to 24 countries. Trinity Valley North Central is one of 15 regions in the state. Teams compete in five divisions – Rising Stars (pre-school-2nd grade), Elementary (K-5), Middle (6-8), Secondary (9-12) and University. Teams choose which challenges they will take on each year from a pre-determined list.

“Every challenge has a performance aspect to it,” said Catherine Carlin of Carrollton, another regional tournament manager. “The challenges have a framework of what you need to do to solve the problem but then you need to present your solution in a play form.”

Participants learn soft skills including collaborative problem solving, teamwork, confidence, entrepreneurialism, innovative thinking, presentations, and research. Teams work on one challenge throughout the school year but also face instant challenges with no preparation at tournaments.

And unlike so many other competitions, judges known as “appraisers” only provide positive feedback. They give out points instead of taking them away.

“What’s cool about this is there is no adult interference,” Carlin said. ‘This is supposed to be kid-run. Kids come up with the ideas. Kids make all the props. Kids set it all up. The parents are there so they don’t set the place on fire.”

DI also provides numerous life lessons.

“I love the failure aspect because you learn from that,” Carlin said.

“Failure enables you to learn more and to be able to move forward,” Brink added. “It teaches them how to accept failure, learn from it and do not crumble because if you get a test back with an F there’s nowhere to go from there. “In DI you just roll with it and do it again.”

With DI, there’s a place for everyone. Plus, scholarships are offered at the local, regional, state, and global levels.

“You can tell DI kids because they can give a speech to 100 people and can talk to adults,” Carlin said. “It’s like all very natural for them.”

Teams initially make their presentations at regional events in February with top qualifiers advancing to the state level in April at the University of Texas-Arlington. The best of the best then move on to the global competition in Kansas City in May.

With the 2022-23 season completed, the focus now is on the 2023-2024 campaign which will kick off with awareness nights at the schools in September. To learn how to become involved, visit tvncdi.org.

Related Articles

Popular This Week