Do you have a child that likes to tinker or has a love for theater? Or maybe your child is obsessed with science or math really gets them excited. Perhaps they’re service-oriented and like to give their time to causes they believe in.
If your child would like follow their interests and use skills like creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, communication, citizenship, and courage, then your child will love Destination Imagination (DI). DI is a global, volunteer organization with over 150,000 participants (annually) spread over 48 states and 30 countries. It’s a fantastic way to build 21st century skills though a fun and challenging project.
What is DI, Really?
DI is Project-oriented Challenges
Teams with 2-7 members solve team-chosen challenges categorized into structural engineering, science, automotive design, theatrical techniques, improvisation, social entrepreneurship (there’s also a non-competitive “Rising Stars” category for younger kids). In each challenge, the team is expected to follow guidelines and present specific elements associated with their challenge. Teams create and stay on a schedule for competition, and they must stay within a budget. They see this project through from conception (picking the challenge) to completion (competition).
DI is Multidisciplinary
Joseph Banks, Affiliate Director for DI Alabama, explains the multidisciplinary aspect best:
“All of the challenges are designed specifically so students have to put together multidisciplinary teams and learn to work with other students who have very different thought processes. While solving their challenge, students who are more art focused will pick up skills from STEM areas, and students who are more technically oriented will learn to explore their artistic side all while having as much fun as possible. The goal of the whole process is to get students to learn from each other through successes and failures while having so much fun that they don’t even realize they’re learning.”
DI is Creativity and Critical Thinking
While the challenges are fairly structured—with specific things the teams must include—the interpretation of the challenge is where the kids really shine. Teams are given the freedom to be as creative as they want, all while figuring out how work with the complexities and confines of the challenge. They achieve this with doing practical, hands-on problem solving. “DI helps kids build real life skills in problem solving in ways that traditional education can’t,” says Banks.
DI is Teamwork, Collaboration, and Competition
My daughter has been involved with Destination Imagination for two years now and it’s been a great experience for her. Teamwork and collaboration along with pushing her out of her comfort zone have been the key components of her experience. She has learned to work with other team members and their ideas. She’s learned to negotiate, to listen and disagree without negativity, and to manage frustration, all while having fun.
While DI is fun, it also has a serious side. It’s a competitive endeavor, with Regional, State, and Global tiers. Teams then present their solution at Regional competition. If they make it though, they move on to State competition, and then the top teams in each category move on to Global Finals. So there’s incentive to do your best.
DI is Kid-Led
This is probably the most empowering thing about DI: the team takes complete and full ownership of their project. This year, I’m managing a team for my daughter and her friends. The absolute hardest thing for me is walking away when I have an idea or see a solution to a problem they’re having. DI has a strict “no interference” rule to make sure the kids are learning and creating on their own, not doing what adults tell them to do. No one can, in any way, interfere with the team solving the challenge on their own. Neither parents, teachers, nor friends can give the team ideas about how to solve their challenge. No one can help build sets or sew costumes for the team. The solution has to come entirely from the kids. The role of team manager is really one of facilitator.
How Do I Get My Child Involved in DI?
Banks has been involved in DI for 8 years (as a volunteer, challenge master, and now AD). He organizes and provides leadership for the volunteers in the state who execute the DI program for the students of Alabama. He says, “I never expected to get as involved as I have, but after seeing firsthand the amazing things this program can do for the kids, I couldn’t help but get pulled in.”
If you want to see what DI can do for your child, you have a couple of options: one is to ask a teacher at your child’s school to manage a team; the other is to manage a team yourself (either through your school, church, or homeschool organization). You can also volunteer for the organization. To find out more about how to get involved, call 1.888.321.1503 or email AskDI@dihq.org for more information.
Karen Gann had a marketing communications career in high tech before taking a sharp turn into stay-at-home-momdom and homeschooling. She grew up in the Tennesse Valley, lives in Huntsville, and is wife to the wittiest man alive, mother to two head-strong and independent girls (they're adorable, really), and human caregiver to the cats. Addictions include Facebook, Pinterest, NYC's Radio Lab, coffee, food, and politics (not necessarily in that order but sometimes all at the same time). She's also the marketing director for Pandia Press in her spare time.