A quiet little movement has been taking place in the Lower School this year. In late October, a group of courageous parents and teachers stepped forward to learn more about the innovation process and then committed to working with their children to guide them on a journey of creative expression. Garages and basements were opened as quasi workshops unfolded. Students learned how work as a team to tackle massive challenges, using their new found love of power tools and freedom to think for themselves.
I have been a part of the Destination Imagination (DI) program for over ten years now and I am always excited to bring this program to a new school. DI is different from other programs in that it departs from the single-lesson or isolated unit of study approach and instead, provides students the chance to think for extended periods of time on a complex challenge that taps into the strengths of all of a team’s participants. Creativity is a must! Innovation is at the core of this program. Teams brainstorm ideas, write scripts, construct models and prototypes, evaluate their work, go back to the drawing table, redesign their final products, and then attend tournaments to showcase their creativity, teamwork and problem-solving skills. They are scored highly on their ability to develop an idea that none of the Appraisers have seen before.
But, perhaps the most interesting component of this program is the hands-off, no interference policy required of the adults involved in the program. This means ALL ideas, ALL work completed and ALL solutions presented, must originate from the team members themselves. Teams have points deducted from their final score if interference is suspected. Parents and teachers are taught to provide open-ended questioning in response to students’ requests for assistance throughout the year. When a student approaches an adult and says, “My prop is falling apart. What should I do?” Instead of saying, “Why don’t you use this item to build your prop, it appears to be sturdier,” parents are taught to rephrase their response, directing the question back to the student. Perhaps, “Yes, I see your prop is flimsy, talk to your team members about alternate solutions to the problem you are facing.”
This no-interference policy is difficult for both the adults and the students. Students are often reliant on our expertise to help them solve a problem. They want the answers fast and now. But we know that innovation comes from a place much deeper than finding answers that are already in a book or in someone else’s head. True innovation comes when students are asked to think for themselves, without the answers laid at their feet. It’s tough to watch your child struggle, grappling with an unknown answer for a few minutes, hours, days or more. But with struggle, comes strength. The pride on a student’s face and in their new found posture is the reward we need as parents and educators. The fact that they have “done this themselves,” is highly rewarding and surprisingly motivating. Many teams come back year after year to tackle new challenges that stretch their minds and abilities.
Park Tudor will be sending off four teams to the Destination Imagination Affiliate Tournament on March 23! Many families have rearranged their spring break plans to allow their children the chance to continue their creative journey. I couldn’t be more proud of the students who embarked on this adventure. I am also truly thankful that our parents, staff and administrators see DI as an essential component of the education process. I look forward to seeing the creative solutions that will come from our students for years to come.
For more information on Park Tudor’s Destination Imagination program, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.