Grandview High School was alive with energy and enthusiasm.
Even though it was a Saturday, the classrooms and hallways were filled with students. Some seemed a little too young to be in high school, but all were completely engaged in what they were doing. Some were concentrating on complex problems. Other students were building elaborate contraptions. Still others donned colorful costumes and rehearsed scenes from what seemed to be a wide variety of comedies, action adventures, even science fiction thrillers.
It was all part of the Cherry Creek Regional Destination Imagination Tournament, held March 11. The largest regional tournament in the state, it’s a huge event that brings together nearly 1,000 elementary, middle and high school students, competing on 136 teams, in a battle of critical thinking, creativity and collaboration.
Destination Imagination is an international program that helps prepare children to be the innovators of the future by combining the arts, sciences and technology with creativity, teamwork and problem solving. Teams of two to seven students select a challenge in one of these areas: technical, scientific, engineering, fine arts, service learning and early learning.
"Destination Imagination challenges are project-based and are designed to teach students from kindergarten through 12th grade the creative process – a powerful tool that is at the root of all innovation,” said Pearl Schwartz, co-director of Cherry Creek Destination Imagination. “Our DI teams learn the skills needed for the 21st century workforce."
A team of sixth-graders from Campus Middle School selected a scientific challenge which required them to plan a secret mission and perform an elaborate theatrical performance.
“We chose scientific because we like the storytelling challenges better than the building challenges,” said team member Katie Kaprielian. “The scientific challenge was really fun this year.”
The group, which goes by the rather unwieldly name “The White Cheddar Popcorns - They're back and this time it's personal!” had to conceal the identity of one of their members and demonstrate both cryptography and steganography during their performance. (In case you were wondering, cryptography involves coding a message using an encryption key and sending it as cypher text, while steganography involves hiding the intended message within a seemingly harmless message.)
They practiced once a week during the fall, and as often as three times a week as the tournament approached, to bring their idea to life. They wrote a script, memorized their lines, created their costumes and built their backdrops and props. Those included a hat with an electrical wheel, a tower featuring LED lights, and Pinocchio-like nose that actually grew while team member Jack Wood was wearing it.
“We had a larger tube on the outside and a smaller tube on the inside and then we taped a plastic stick to the inside of the nose so I could just push it out,” Wood explained matter-of-factly.
The project involved a lot of trial and error, time and effort.
“I think the hardest part of the challenge was not just doing the decryption-encryption, but sometimes it was the architecture for the backdrop,” said team member Emily Chang. “Sometimes there’s a lot of tedious work.”
But the students all agree it was worth it.
“It was awesome,” said Carter Preece. “It’s really fun because it helps a lot with teamwork and helps you get to know people in the school. You just feel part of a team, you help each other and you reach out to each other.”
Parents of DI participants say their children learn skills that will benefit them throughout their lives.
“They learn project management. They learn theater skills. They learn teamwork and cooperation and they learn thinking on their feet,” said Kim Kaprielian, whose son and daughter are on the CMS team. “You name it, all these skills are great for them to have when they grow up. No matter what they do, there’s something they can use.”
The “White Cheddar Popcorn” team took third place in its competitive category and now moves on to the next level of competition.
“The top three teams from each challenge and each level move on to the Colorado DI Tournament on April 22 at the Auraria campus in downtown Denver,” said Maureen Dewar, co-director of Cherry Creek Destination Imagination. “Their goal is to earn the chance to go on to DI Globals, which will be held May 23-27 in Knoxville, Tennessee.”
You can get complete results from the Cherry Creek Regional DI Tournament here.