ROCHESTER, WA, May 5 – How do you encourage highly capable students to find their hidden potential? How do you tap into their creativity? Gifted education teacher Danette Jones looked to Destination Imagination to unlock these treasures. The result? Two of her four Rochester School District (RSD) teams placed third in their age group at the state competition in Wenatchee in April.
Destination Imagination’s vision is to teach students the creative process and empower them with the skills needed to succeed in an ever-changing world. The international program is a fun, rigorous, hands-on system fostering creativity, courage and curiosity. Open-ended challenges engage students in the fields of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), fine arts and service learning.
Rochester Middle School students Austin Sheldon and Hayden Williams, known as the Fender Benders, built a hovercraft. They were tasked with designing and building a vehicle that could travel across the presentation site on wheels and received bonus points for returning without the wheels, as part of The Pace of Change technical challenge they chose. The vehicle had to have two propulsion methods, be able to carry a team member, and be powered without assistance. The boys had to make as many trips as possible across a 14-foot stage within the performance time limit. The skit had to portray a change in the vehicle and a change in the character. The skit produced by the boys was humorous and fascinating.
“They used two leaf blowers; one to inflate, and one to propel.” Jones explained. “They were able to speak with managers at local companies about their project and used their people skills to negotiate a lower price for the needed materials. This helped them stay within their $200 budget.”
Rochester’s high school team, Dinomite – A Tiny Dino Parasite, competed in the Get a Clue fine arts challenge. Amy Hoium and Natalie Sanchez created three separate storylines for a whodunit mystery. It was set on Earth in a team-chosen time period before 1990. Live on stage, the judges chose one of the three suspect characters responsible for the mystery, and Team Dinomite performed the corresponding play.
To add even more of a challenge, the play was to be performed in the style of traverse staging, in which the audience is on two sides of the stage, facing towards each other. The props and set built by the high schoolers had to be presentable to both sides, unlike traditional theater where everyone’s view is the same.
This was only the second year Rochester students have participated in Destination Imagination, and Jones says they’re still learning. “Last year, they acquired an understanding of what DI is all about. This year, they stepped up to the competition,” she said. And next year? “The kids are hungry for the opportunity to go to Globals,” Jones said.
A trip to Global Finals in Knoxville, Tenn. is no small feat, Jones explained. For the state competition, some teams rented moving trucks to transport the inventions, costumes, sets and props to Wenatchee; they would need to do the same for the global competition. The estimate for this year’s teams headed to Tennessee is $750 per student, not including travel and team registration fees.
“All first and some second place teams earn a spot at Globals,” Jones said, “and we had two teams place third this year. I’m looking forward to seeing what our kids can do in the years to come.”
“We are so proud of these DI students and the way the program brings out the best in them,” said Rochester Superintendent Kim Fry. “We are confident in future years, as they place even higher and earn a spot at globals, the community will rally around our Rochester children and provide the needed support for them to attend.”
Rochester School District provides rigorous academic programs to more than 2,200 students, preparing them for lifelong learning, rewarding careers and productive citizenship. The district’s students and staff have received numerous state awards, including being named a 2013 and 2014 Washington State “School of Distinction,” and recently the #1 school district for teacher support in all of Washington.