In five minutes or less, could you come up with a series of sales pitches including how to sell a feather duster to a mermaid, could you build a three-foot tower out of clothespins and pipe cleaners?
These were two of the challenges presented to some of the teams of Bedford students, ranging from first grade through high school, at the Bedford MA Destination Imagination (Bedford MADI) Instant Challenge Medley this past Saturday afternoon at the John Glenn Middle School.
Destination Imagination (DI) is a STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Arts and Mathematics) based creativity and team building competition. Bedford is home to around 90 of the more than 150,000 students worldwide (42 U.S. states, 7 Canadian provinces, and 28 countries across 6 continents) who are participating in DI this year.
Students work in teams of two-to-seven kids throughout the school year to complete a long term science, structural engineering, technical engineering, fine arts, improvisation, and/or community service-based project. Teams present their solutions at spring tournaments in a theatrical performance that includes team-created scenery, props, costumes, and often times music.
DI teams cannot receive any assistance on ideas or construction from adults or other outside sources. Creativity and teamwork are major goals of the program and thus account for a large percentage of points awarded at tournaments. Teams are scored on a rubric that weighs as heavily on imagination, ingenuity, novelty, cooperation, and resilience as it does on successful outcomes.
In addition to presenting a rehearsed performance with prepared projects and solutions, teams perform an “Instant Challenge” at tournaments. The Instant Challenge is a test of a team’s ability to use on the spot creative problem solving and teamwork to solve a 5-to-10-minute challenge that they have never seen before, worth up to a quarter of the total potential tournament points.
Instant Challenges tend to fit into a category of “task” (building a bridge or tower, or a tool to move items), “performance” (creating an improvisational skit from a prompt), “combination” (building something and then presenting it in a skit), or “communication” (conveying a set of instructions).
Thanks to more than 40 volunteers, Saturday’s IC Medley gave each of Bedford’s 14 DI teams the opportunity to room to room across JGMS and complete five practice Instant Challenges that represent each potential category they could see at a tournament. The IC Medley is planned as a fun, non-competitive, team-bonding afternoon timed right as DI teams are hitting their stride building props, finalizing scripts, and working on resiliency with just over a month to go before the regional tournament.
Amy Keep, a fourth grader on the team The Bedford Baddies, felt the event goal was achieved. “My team got better and better as we went on. It was great to be able to practice and I had fun with my team.”
Vivian and Ella Martin, sisters participating on the fifth grade team named Taco Thursdays and the third grade team Creative Cobras, respectively, both agreed the communication challenge was their favorite of the day. Vivian reported, “We were given random items and had [to use them] to non-verbally communicate a shopping list to the rest of our team across the room.” The team members across the room had to acquire the correct items from 48 grocery options and put them into a shopping cart before time ran out. “We got all of them!”
Ella’s group had to develop a silent communication system where team members conveyed an assigned route to deliver Bedford Farms ice cream around town using a map of landmarks around town. Ella felt like she “was a big help.”
Third grader Nathan Bullough from Team United Fat Tails “had a great time,” and “loved going to all the different rooms with so many different challenges and loved being able to get creative and work with the team.”
Kym Bullough, a parent volunteer and one of the event organizers, observed a team of BHS students during a challenge. “At one point, they had decided to go one direction, but then one of the team members said that it wasn’t working well and so the team pivoted quickly and figured out a strategy that was much better. It was so impressive to see teenagers talking, troubleshooting, taking corrective criticism, adjusting their strategy, and working as a team.”
Overall, Kym Bullough felt that the event “was such an incredibly positive experience for both the kids and the volunteers.” Another event organizer, Leah Walton, added, “IC Medley helps build up that community feeling before the big day. It’s such an empowering experience for the kids when they (and we) see what they’re able to do when given the space to do it.”
Bedford MADI extends an emphatic thank-you to the volunteers, contributors around town who loaned supplies for the event, and the custodial staff at JGMS.