August 13, 2015
Written by Claudia Wadzinski
To the naked eye, Destination Imagination (DI) can be a mystery. Sometimes, even veteran DI-er’s don’t fully appreciate the program’s life altering, life giving potential. There is more going on than many of us realize or appreciate when we watch those 5- to 8-minute performances.
Encoded within the DNA of DI is the process of learning how to best use time and resources (and our mind is our greatest resource), how to work together respectfully and cooperatively, how to think outside of the box, and how to create new and unique solutions to open-ended Challenges. There is a place to shine for every gift, talent or ability. DI incorporates critical thinking, hands-on problem solving, the arts, engineering, and teamwork in a way that nurtures and stimulates both creativity and productivity. The process can open the doors of the mind in a ground-breaking way that can have lifelong ramifications. DI is affordable, open to pre-k through college age students, and available to public, private, and homeschool students in every rural and urban community throughout the U.S. and even abroad connecting, uniting and igniting universally.
Local competitions produce regional winners, who move on to state tournaments. State winners join students from all over the world at the annual Global Finals tournament held each year at the end of May in Knoxville, Tennessee. Think the Olympics of Creativity, or a Disney World where every guest is an Imagineer and you begin to get the picture of what Global Finals is like. In addition to competing in their Challenge, students learn how to compete against what is possible. Global Finals is a huge celebration and showcase of the best teams from nearly every state and dozens of foreign countries. At Global Finals, even losing is fun!
There is no comparison between DI and other measures of learning. Standardized tests, for example, can be a race stacked for the fastest readers, weighing down even math and science scores because standardized tests are usually reading based. Standardized tests can neglect, and in some cases even suppress, creativity and intelligence exhibited through art and music. Standardized tests may produce the world’s largest army of speed readers, but they will never optimally measure or cultivate a student’s ability. Dyslexic students are another group disadvantaged by standardized tests. Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein and Walt Disney are just a few examples of what great dyslexic minds are capable of if not constrained in an era of testing. DI can actually be an excellent counterproductive measure for testing because it is a therapeutic outlet for a student’s passion, emotion and imagination.
In short, not every child is wired to be the star of the football team, leader of the band, Picasso, and so on. Likewise, not every child will perform at the top of the standardized test measure—in part because there are many forms of intelligence standardized testing can’t measure. While there is a need for standardized testing as surely as there is a need for athletics, music, and art in school; it’s unwise to elevate testing (or athletics, music, or art) as a single measure of all student’s worth or ability, and even more unwise to build an entire education system around it.Students who are frustrated by testing and who aren’t in an environment where they can nurture other gifts or talents can end up lost and misguided. It’s true that a mind is a terrible thing to waste. It can also be expensive as some of these students end up on wrong paths in life. When students are busy doing what they were meant to do, they are less likely to be doing the things they shouldn’t do.
Claudia Wadzinski (far left) and her Destination Imagination team.
The benefits of DI extend well beyond learning. DI also cultivates better interpersonal communications and problem solving skills. In a culture where students are more likely to learn how to attack each other, DI teaches them how to attack a problem. DI hinges on adult volunteers so, as a by-product, even adults are stretched to become productive, constructive, respectful problem solvers and role models in a community.
DI has the potential to teach critical life skills. Students have the opportunity to learn how to apply their gifts, talents and strengths cooperatively and respectfully. They learn to welcome problems as an opportunity to rise to new challenges. They build relationships focused on each other’s strengths. They learn to respect time and resources. They learn to value solutions over who is right or who gets credit. They learn that fighting and blaming weakens the team and leads to defeat. Over time, DI students learn to cultivate their passion and purpose into a priceless sense of self-worth. They mine their world and their own potential to discover genuine fulfillment.
This is the time of year when volunteer organizers and Team Managers, school and teacher sponsors, parents, and students from around the globe begin a new season of DI. While it’s great to win, who takes top honors next May is less important than offering each student a chance to get one step closer to realizing their own potential. Once discovered, this information will be key to finding happiness and success in or out of school, and all throughout life. DI is an exceptional and cost-efficient investment in our children and our future.