Destination Imagination always a trip worth taking!BRIAN MATUSZAK: D.I. should be front-page news around here. Proctor had a number of teams advance to Global Finals last year, competing with teams from all around the world!
So, I don’t know if you heard, but last weekend, the Proctor library (or media center, as it’s labeled nowadays—although THAT name is misleading because I tripped over an AV cart in front of Young Adult Fiction that was nowhere NEAR the center of the room) was overrun with human freestyle-weight machines, collapsing Ferris wheels, and redneck nerds. No, the South St. Louis County Fair wasn’t in town, it was Destination Imagination weekend!
Destination Imagination (known from here on out as D.I. because it’s easier to type than Destinatino imaignoa ... d’oh .... see?!) is a fantastic program offered at Hermantown, Proctor, and several other local schools that teaches kids how to creatively solve problems. At the beginning of the season, teams form at elementary, middle, and high school levels, and then spend the next five months trying to figure out the best way to tackle some crazy challenge. They are not allowed to have any adult help at all (that’s called Interference and is bad, bad, bad); instead, they have to rely on their inventive brains, their natural-born talents, and their ingenuity.
I know local robotics and hockey teams have been headline news recently, and for good reason, but I think D.I. should also be trumpeted for its impressive accomplishments with these area kids.
I have been the coach for Kaylee's D.I. team for six years now, and every year, I am blown away by what happens when you turn fresh, creative minds loose on these difficult tasks. (Could YOU build a structure out of nothing but wood and glue that can hold a couple hundred pounds of weight as well as move golf balls around? How about writing and performing an improvisational skit that connects two completely unrelated news stories and uses teammates to create human scenery, and, oh by the way, you have five minutes to do it? Yeah, good luck with that.) When I began coaching D.I., it was hard for me to shut up and get out of their way. You don’t realize how much you, as an adult and especially as a parent, want to help and just do it for them. It’s a hard habit to break, but crucial for D.I. (Interference!!!), and now I know why: because kids are breathtakingly creative and talented all on their own. They don't need us. See, our minds are old and set in stone, while their young minds haven’t yet been corrupted with the evil thought poison called we-can’t-do-it-that-way. Instead, their brains overflow with a bazillion questions like “Why CAN’T we do it that way?” or “What about if we tried it this way?” or “Who says a cat can’t talk like Brett Favre?” If you just sit quietly in the corner, you’ll soon discover that they keep on asking and looking and trying until they figure out a solution that not only works, but that your stodgy brain never saw coming. It. Is. Amazing.
Can you imagine how many adults could benefit from a wonderful program like D.I.? Thousands of dollars in corporate budgets get flushed away every year on workshops, retreats, and break-out meetings as businesses try to get their employees to use the right side of their brains, which have usually been dormant for so long, they’re nothing but dusty spider holes. I can guarantee that if I turned My Demented Purse.Net (Kaylee’s D.I. team) loose on current problems like budget deficits and casino snafus, we’d have more creative solutions than street light fees and courthouse maneuvering.
D.I. should be front-page news around here. Proctor had a number of teams advance to Global Finals last year, competing with teams from all around the world! They have a pretty good shot at returning this year, and our Hermantown teams are working to join them. (The state meet is April 14 in Champlin Park). Sure, D.I. may not be flashy like hockey, or smashy like robotics, but it is most deserving of recognition from all of us folks who exist well above that thirty-something line.
And trust me, these kids will have plenty of creative solutions on how to solve future challenges in their lives, ranging from employment to finances to nursing home choices (hint, hint).
Brian Matuszak has been difficult and demanding since February 2008. He is the co-founder of Renegade Comedy Theatre, founder of Rubber Chicken Theater, and finally figured out how to run a D.I. practice without the team screaming “Interference!” at him every five seconds.