Three Wauwatosa schools placed at a global competition of creativity, innovation and teamwork called Destination Imagination last month; more than 8,000 students from about 15 countries competed.
Destination Imagination is a volunteer-led nonprofit that engages students with learning challenges through science, art, math, technology and engineering. Longfellow Middle School, Lincoln Elementary School and Wauwatosa East High School participated at globals in Knoxville, Tennessee.
"While Wauwatosa students frequently are involved in competitions, athletic and otherwise, it is quite rare for our students to compete against peers from other countries," said Anne Coulling, Longfellow team manager and DI coordinator.
Lincoln placed 25th out of 70 elementary teams in the technical category called "Dig In." Longfellow took 28th out of 82 middle school teams in the fine arts "Laugh Art Loud" category. Wauwatosa East took 48th out of 73 teams in the high school improvisational "Pandemonium" category.
This year, there were three total teams at Longfellow, six at Lincoln and one from East. Only one team from each school advanced to globals after competing in the regional- and state-level competitions.
"DI teaches kids real-life experiences: working on a team, learning to be flexible, persistence, patience, collaborative problem-solving — things that are necessary in today's work force. And it does it in a way that the kids are drawn to," said Donna Gifford, team manager at Lincoln.
To participate, students form teams of up to seven based on their interests in science, math, technology, art or engineering. Team managers, which are usually parent volunteers, cannot assist students in the DI challenges.
In the technical category, Lincoln had to design and build equipment to detect objects in a hiding place. They then had to use a team design to build equipment to take objects out of hiding places and move them across the finish line. They also had to create a story about what was going on — all within eight minutes.
For improvisation, East participants had to create characters from different time periods and prepare their interaction with each other.
For fine arts, Longfellow students created a skit with a 5-foot-tall comic book to tell a story inspired by a piece of art created by an international artist.
Gifford said that for one of her team members, the student-led challenges offered a glimpse of college-level thinking.
"He said, 'Is this what college is like? I'm so going to college!' Our teammates' mom was so thrilled to hear about college in a positive way. Not all kids when they are 10 years old think about their future," Gifford said.
For others, the experience is in the global interaction.
Students are given trading pins to exchange with kids from other countries, Coulling said.
"To have those kinds of interactions with strangers, it broadens your view of the world. ... But also it's really beneficial because I think it inspires people to work and try harder," she said.
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