THE LOW DOWN: Quick. You have six minutes to write a soap opera that includes characters from each of the food groups (i.e., whole grains, dairy, fruits and vegetables, etc.). You then have two minutes to perform your soap opera for the judges. The most creative soap opera wins. Schools in Nebraska and all over the world are using challenges like these to engage all different types of students; broadening their creativity, teamwork, and problem-solving skills.
THE CHALLENGE: Recent studies have shown that children’s creativity test scores have dropped steadily over the past several decades. There are many possible reasons for this decline. From school’s pressure to deliver on standardized tests and a more traditional curriculum, to the fact that today’s students are bombarded by access to information – a veritable world at their fingertips – and imagination and creative thinking aren’t a large part of their day. Enter Destination ImagiNation (DI); an international organization that provides ways for educators to get students’ creative juices flowing to teach problem solving, team building and the benefits of healthy competition.
THE CHAMPIONS: Ainsworth music teacher and DI Nebraska Chapter President, Kim Bejot and Ainsworth’s Destination ImagiNation coordinator Rachel Baack.
THE SOLUTION: As adults we are constantly faced by decisions that require split second, creative thinking. The challenges issued by DI help students develop skills and confidence which allows them to see difficulties simply as challenges that can be overcome using creative solutions. DI is a global organization that provides educational opportunities for students in more than 25 countries. In Ainsworth, Ms. Baack oversees the DI afterschool program, issuing and appraising practice challenges and working with students, many of whom go on to compete in DI tournaments on a regional, state and global level.
Many of the DI challenges involve putting together a group of seemingly unrelated objects to serve a new function, such as using toothpicks, paper cups, a box of raisins and coin wrappers to build a structure that will hold weight. Seeing students’ enthusiasm for these types of projects, coupled with her background in music, led teacher Kim Bejot to create B.E.A.T.
Imagine dozens of teens banging on plastic buckets, cow bones and wooden shutters to make some beautiful music. That’s B.E.A.T. (Bejot’s Ensemble of Acoustic Troubadours); a diverse group of students who use found objects as percussion instruments. There’s nothing these students can’t make music out of.
THE RESULTS: Perhaps one of the most important benefits of student participation in Destination ImagiNation and B.E.A.T. is the sense of camaraderie and belonging that the programs instill. DI provides kids with a creative outlet, and a way to be part of a team that doesn’t compete on a field or court. It allows them to connect, to flex their creative muscles and develop the confidence that comes from expressing ideas and sharing them in front of a group of your peers.
The same can be said of B.E.A.T. What started as a program only for kids participating in DI has expanded to include kids from across the student body. The ensemble was initially conceived as an extra outlet for their creativity once the DI season was over. It grew into a way to help students develop focus, listening skills, respect and teamwork skills. It remains just that, but has grown into a sort of extended family and support network. As the program grew, Ms. Bejot set up a 501(c)3 organization through the Brown County Foundation, an Affiliate of the Nebraska Community Foundation, that allowed B.E.A.T. to expand beyond the school campus and into its own rehearsal space. And it’s a good thing, too. The ensemble’s collection of found instruments seems to grow weekly!
Destination ImagiNation teams have competed at the Regional, State and Global levels, and B.E.A.T. has performed at the Nebraska Governor’s Arts Awards, National Conferences, and throughout the Midwest. But the DI and B.E.A.T. teams take away more than just trophies and accolades. They come away with the knowledge that they, too, can accomplish great things if they always ask themselves “why not?” They find out that no challenge is too big, or too hard or too complex to be solved.
For more information on bringing Destination ImagiNation into your school, visit the Nebraska chapter’s web site at: http://nebraskadi.org/.