Celebration of Creation

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I spent last weekend in Vancouver, attending the BCDI Destination Imagination Provincial Tournament.  The weather was warm, the sun was shining, and both the cherry trees and tulips were in full bloom.  Everywhere I went people were embracing the day, smiling…happy. This was refreshing after a mild but long winter back home.  I know my fellow Winnipeggers can relate.  But perhaps surprisingly, what impressed and inspired me most occurred inside the walls of a high school in Surrey. Nothing is more empowering for an educator than to see children embracing and celebrating learning.

Over the past year, I have had the privilege to explore the possibility, and endless opportunities that come along with Destination Imagination.  DI is the largest creativity program in the world.  It is present in 30 countries, 48 states and at varying levels in provinces across Canada.  DI has been around since 1982. It is a leader in inquiry and project based learning and blends STEM with fine arts, and social entrepreneurship.  At the end of each summer DI publishes 6 different challenges and teams of up to 7 students spend the next 9 months trying to come up with the best solution possible.  Then students compare their solution to those of others at a tournament with the culmination being the Global Finals in the third week of May where they can compare their solution with those from around the world.

DI gives learners of all ages (primary to university) opportunities to use the creative process to design and manage a project, and gain the skills needed to succeed in our 21st C world.  They learn to communicate, collaborate and think both critically and creatively. They learn to problem solve and be novel and flexible in their thinking.  As they meet trials, and experience failures along the way, they practice perseverance and develop resiliency. They explore, experiment and learn to think outside the box as they imagine, plan, design, create, refine and share their solutions to challenges. Each solution is unique and presented in an eight-minute performance which showcases the individual skills, strengths, interests and passions of the team members.

The ultimate goal of education is to prepare our students for their future.  As the reality and implications of our flattening world, the changing job market and unprecedented times in the way of “connectivity” become apparent, as educators we know teacher directed, content driven, traditional methods of teaching and learning will not suffice.  How do we best prepare our students for the ever changing, diverse and fluid world that is their reality? DI is a powerful vehicle for teachers to promote the active, experiential, self-directed learning our students need to experience in order to be successful. Imagine the Possibilities…check out this video for a further look into how DI can help students gain skills needed to lead the future.

Over the past year, I have personally managed my first DI Extra- Curricular Team and marveled at the creativity, commitment, ingenuity, and teamwork exhibited by my 7 elementary team members. I have seen these marginalized students develop an exceptional rapport, dynamic and trust with one another.  I have seen them face each failure head on, overcome each obstacle and persevere throughout the development of their very dynamic Fine Arts team solution.

Over the past year, I have introduced the Instant Challenge component of DI to hundreds of teachers. Instant Challenges are similar to Team Challenges, other than their reduced timeline and that teams do not know what they are going to have to do in advance. Instant Challenges promote students working as as a team to think critically and creatively to come with a solution to a STEAM related challenge, both task or performance based, in a short period of time. I have witnessed these teachers embrace these unique learning opportunities and experience great success implementing them in their classrooms. Instant challenges can be used classroom based, and are also a key component of DI tournaments.

Over the past year, I have organized and attended my first DI related professional learning session facilitated by Johnny Wells, DI Director of Education, and I have met numerous individuals involved with this non-profit, volunteer led organization. Time and time again I have been inspired by the insight, passion, commitment and willingness to share, exemplified by all. I look forward to my continued work with these dedicated individuals and my own expanding role with DI in Manitoba. Over the past year I have attended two DI tournaments, both the Global Finals in Knoxville, and the BCDI tournament in Vancouver, and walked away with a renewed perspective on what authentic, purposeful and empowering education can look like.

Over the past year, I have seen two common themes emerge throughout my experiences with DI.  One… it is truly an exemplary celebration of both imagination and creativity. Two… DI embodies joy.  Joy that stems from a team seeing their creation of a 40 gram, home-made musical instrument hold more than 300 kilograms of weight.  Joy that comes from kids helping each other to solve unpredicted challenges.  Joy and the sense of reward that comes from watching 8 months of hard work come to fruition. Joy in feeling acknowledged, and celebrated for one’s individual strengths and passions. And the joy that comes from being part of a team, something significant, and a larger community of learners.

Thomas S. Monson reminds us, “Find joy in the journey”.  I look forward to my continued journey with Destination Imagination and the unique and innovative opportunities it offers learners!

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