Mantua – Recently, Ohio’s Region 15 Destination Imagination tournament day took place on the Hiram College campus. The competition matched Crestwood’s eight teams against 57 teams from 10 other school districts across Summit, Portage, Geauga and Lake Counties in six different challenges. It was a big day for the 51 Crestwood students that began working on their individual challenges since September, and have worked steadily toward this event throughout the winter months.

In Destination Imagination, Team Challenges inspire students to engage their curiosity while exploring structural engineering, science, automotive design, theatrical techniques, improvisation and social entrepreneurship, competing against kids from around the world. The early learning category, dubbed ‘rising stars,’ encourages students in grades K though 2nd grade to participate, while students from elementary through high school can choose challenges from six different areas. Through their months of planning, student-led groups learn how to collaborate with each other, learning the valuable skills of flexibility, persistence, and patience, as they work toward solving a challenge.

In the technical challenge, dubbed ‘pace of change,’ teams had to build a vehicle that could carry at least one team member. They also had to change their vehicle’s propulsion system during their eight-minute presentation, which had to relay a story about the subject of change. The winning team at the elementary level used people power to pull their cart, switching to a small electric scooter motor that propelled to teammates to the final scene of their skit, a Cavaliers’ basketball game in Cleveland.

“What’s so wonderful about DI is that it’s student-led,” explained Monica Grebb, the Crestwood Primary teacher who introduced the program at Crestwood Schools. “I love watching it unfold, and seeing how each team interprets a challenge. When you see one challenge interpreted by several groups, it’s interesting to see how each team solves the same challenge in a different, unique way, she added. “Through DI, you really see how their creativity comes to life.”

The Belly Dancing Blue Jeez team (pictured at left)  from Crestwood Intermediate was the District’s highest-ranking team, earning second place in the Close Encounters improvisational challenge. Although the team of Josh Delaney, Drake Rennecker and Jacob White will not proceed to the State competition as they did last year, team leader Mrs. Rennecker was very proud of their hard work over the past seven months. Corrine, a DI volunteer, expounded, “Through Destination Imagination, kids learn everyday problem-solving skills, which are valuable and necessary skills for everyone, regardless of where their path in life leads.”

In the ‘get a clue’ fine arts challenge, the most popular category with the most competition, teams were asked to present a mystery story set on Earth in a team-chosen time period before 1990. But the teammates didn’t even know the ending, since teams were required to provide the names of three potential suspects to judges, who placed the names in three sealed envelopes prior to each team’s performance. The team selected one envelope, which they opened during their eight-minute performance, weaving this surprise disclosure into their tale of mystery and suspense.

“DI is different from other student extracurricular activities in that it gives kids who think differently a way to showcase that,” Mrs. Grebb explained. “Instead of a student being considered a square peg that must adapt to fit in a round hole, with DI, STEM learning is encouraged through open-ended challenges, which showcases students’ talents and rewards creative thinkers,” she acknowledged. “This is something Crestwood, and all schools, really need,” she added. Last year was the District’s first year competing in DI, and Crestwood had six teams; in 2016, they grew to eight teams. “Next year, we’re hoping to include more middle school teams,” Mrs. Grebb added.

Mrs. Baynes, team coach for the Sassy ZENCLAS Devils, had been nervous for her kids in the days leading up to the competition at Hiram College. Her dad, Art, calmed her nerves, wisely noting, “It sounds like they’ve really grown through DI. At the end of the day, that’s all that matters. Even if they come in last place, it sounds like they’ve already won.”

Pictured above are some of the Crestwood students who participated in the Destination Imagination regional competition at Hiram College.