Destination Imagination: 'Olympics of innovation and creativity'

Students at 15 intermediate schools across P.E.I. are taking part in Destination Imagination, an annual challenge where youth from around the world face off to demonstrate innovative thinking.

Students challenged to use '21st century skills' to be creative and innovative

This was the winning design in the Instant Challenge at Gulf Shore's Destination Imagination practice. (Nancy Russell/CBC)
Students at 15 intermediate schools across P.E.I. are stretching their imaginations this winter through a program called Destination Imagination.

Destination Imagination (DI) is  sometimes described as "the Olympics of creativity and innovation." It's  an annual challenge where youth from around the world face off to demonstrate innovative thinking.
Destination Imagination brings science and communication into the  21st  century—Maria Lavoie , teacher

"Most people are familiar with the science fair or heritage fair, so Destination Imagination targets different groups of students who may be interested in other things like improv or engineering," explained Kieran Hennessey, a curriculum specialist for P.E.I. Department of Education.

"It's a different type of tournament to target those types of students and those interests."

In the second Instant Challenge, Gulf Shore students had to build a tower using just 20 sheets of paper. (Nancy Russell/CBC)

"Destination Imagination brings science and communication into the 21st century," said Maria Lavoie, vice-principal and teacher at Gulf Shore School.  Her school is offering Destination Imagination for the first time.

Two schools from P.E.I. took part in the pilot project for Destination Imagination last year and competed for the first time at the Nova Scotia championship.  To the surprise of many, two of the rookie teams from East Wiltshire won the event and got a chance to travel and compete at the Global Finals in Tennessee.
Two teams from East Wiltshire competed at the Global Nationals in Tennessee in May 2015 in their rookie year taking part in Destination Imagination. (Winsor Wight)

Now DI has expanded across Prince Edward Island, adding 13 new schools.

"Our hope is that next year we will cover the rest of the intermediate schools on P.E.I.," "said Vicki Allen-Cook, art education curriculum specialist for P.E.I.

"This year we will be introducing a provincial tournament here, not in Nova Scotia,"  added Allen-Cook. "And we will have one team — at least — that goes to Globals."

'The instant challenges are a huge hit'

 At a DI tournament, students compete in two kinds of challenges.  The first is called the instant challenge. 

"It's usually about a five minute period of constructing something with simple materials," explained Allen-Cook. "Constructing something within a time period and having it work."
Students at Gulf Shore take part in an instant challenge as part of their training for Destination Imagination. (Nancy Russell/CBC)

"When you introduce an instant challenge, it's almost like immediate engagement in the classroom," said Hennessey. "We saw teamwork, we saw collaboration. We saw problem-solving. We saw critical thinking. We saw creativity come out in a short period of time."

"The instant challenges are a huge hit," said April MacNevin, who teaches Grades 5 to 8 at Gulf Shore. "We actually started off doing some of those in the classroom just to kind of promote DI and what it's all about."  

"Now they ask me all the time, can we do an instant challenge?" she said.

​Preparing them for the work force in the 21st century

The second part of the DI competition is called the central challenge — one students prepare for ahead of time and counts for about 75 per cent of the team's score.

"I really like the teamwork and it's really fun," said Grade 8 student Kaitlyn MacNeill. "I just really like all the planning and strategising with other people."
Gulf Shore teachers April MacNevin and Maria Lavoie say the Instant Challenges have been a big hit with students. (Nancy Russell/CBC)

Jason Nieuwhof, grade 9, said the instant challenges are his favourite part.

"I'd say it would help with problem-solving, just because you have to work through these kinds of things," he said.  "It's more than just subjects. It helps with life."

"In the end, we're preparing them for a world that we don't know exists yet," added MacNevin. "We don't know what jobs they're going to be doing, so getting the opportunity to tap into their creativity and imagination — it's worth the time."


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