Tag Archives: team building

Why DI?


At our state DI tournament, they asked kids to stand who have done DI for four or more years. My kids and one of their teammates stood up. For a moment, the other team manager tsked them to sit and I thought, hey, wait… But they were right. We’ve done Destination Imagination since kindergarten, making this our fourth year.

It was our first competitive year (K-2nd teams have a special non-competitive category). We won our regional tournament and placed fifth in our state tournament. I’m so proud of all the hard work my kids and their team manager did. While she was navigating the intricacies of competitive DI, I was coaching the younger team in a much simpler challenge.

I have said it before, but I’ll say it again. Homeschoolers should consider doing Destination Imagination (or the similar organization Odyssey of the Mind – check your area and see which one has a stronger local organization as they are nearly the same). There are so many reasons, but here are a few:

  • DI teaches kids to work together as a part of a team.
  • DI teaches kids confidence to go into new situations and think on their feet.
  • DI teaches kids to think outside the box and come up with solutions to problems.
  • DI helps kids practice building and engineering in all kinds of ways.
  • There is a sense of accomplishment and pride for kids who complete a central challenge.

Destination Imagination does all this in a way that is fun and feels absolutely genuine, as opposed to many of the attempts I’ve seen to teach these teamwork and creativity skills in a school setting. This is real “group work” that’s much more like the kind you might be asked to do in a workplace one day, though it will probably involve fewer popsicle sticks and mailing labels than a DI challenge.


Destination Imagination Tournament Three

This year for their skit, Mushroom, BalletBoy and one of their teammates played evil villains.  The face paint makes them look very sinister, right?

I’ve sung the praises of our experience with Destination Imagination so many times that I won’t bother doing it in depth again.  DI and the similar organization Odyssey of the Mind are both “creativity competitions.”  Kids from kindergarten through college compete in various challenges at a tournament.  The cost isn’t too high (I believe, once divided up, our team was about $20 per kid).  The program encourages the kind of social and team skills that are hard to come by in other ways.

For the first time, I wasn’t the coach for our team.  That honor went to one of the other parents this year.  She did such a great job and I was so pleased to just show up at the tournament and see the amazing skit the kids put together.  Perfection.

Just One More on Destination Imagination

Well, my last post about Destination Imagination for the year begins with the flu.  First, it knocked me down.  Then it knocked the kids down.  We lost our last two weeks (two very essential weeks, I might add!) to the flu.  We spent a lot of time worried that we wouldn’t make it to the tournament this past weekend.  I have to credit the other parents from our team for making it all come together.  As a coach, racked with the flu and then with a sinus headache (that’s lingering still and keeps threatening to become a proper migraine), I was a bit scattered and useless.  However, somehow, with everyone’s help, we managed to pull it together.

Destination Imagination is a program that teaches kids teamwork and asks them to harness their creativity for a series of challenges.  I cannot sing its praises, especially for homeschoolers, enough.  Kids can face challenges that test their creativity in engineering, performance, arts, and other arenas.  The program goes all the way from preschool to college.  Our team was a Rising Stars team.  At the tournament, the kids participated in an instant challenge, where they had only 4 minutes to put together something with random materials and then put on a quick skit about it.  Then we performed our team challenge – a skit about “Big Bug’s Bad Day.”  Here’s the kids all ready to perform.

The plot of their skit, which they came up with completely on their own, involved a bumblebee who goes for a walk, only to have some ice crack and leave him wet and miserable.  Then, he gets lost on the way home.  Peering into a window, he sees a man with piles of dead bugs which he is carefully pinning to a board.  Horrified, he finally goes home and tells his friends (a roly poly, a ladybug and an inchworm) about what he saw.  They all despair that they’ll all end up pinned to a board.  Luckily, a fairy appears and tells them to follow her.  She leads them to the “Bad Entomologist” and whips out a giant pin.  The man turns around just in time to see the bugs pin him to the wall.  Then the bugs all celebrate.  Yes, it is a gruesome plot for a bunch of six year olds to dream up.  The stabbing was also an interesting trick as Mushroom, the entomologist, had a big hunk of styrofoam taped under his shirt.

BalletBoy’s performance was a little lackluster.  By the time we got home, he was fully sick again.  Then, after spending a full hour whining, Mushroom abruptly passed out on the sofa.  Yup.  He was sick again too.

Well, the show went on, at least.


Consensus for Kids

Our Destination Imagination team is in the thick of it now, making decisions about our team challenge.  Last year’s challenge tested our engineering skills with newspaper and tape.  This year’s challenge is really putting our collective decision making skills to the test as the kids have to imagine their own skit about a bug’s bad day.

After much consideration and some hearty debate, our "big bug" will be a bumblebee.

I’m not always perfect at consensus, but I like working with it.  Between working under Quaker process for many years and having been schooled in grassroots organizing as part of my master’s thesis research, I like to think I know at least a little about leadership and consensus building.  Of course, it’s one thing with adults and something else altogether with 5 and 6 year olds.

I think the same rules still apply, even if the kids need extra guidance.  When our DI team has a decision to make, I turn to consensus.  Here’s what I do:

  • I ask the kids to brainstorm and I put lots of ideas on the board, sometimes with doodles for the non readers.
  • OR… I ask them to begin with their best idea.  Adults often sift out their ideas for the “best idea” and advocate it, but younger children sometimes just want all the thoughts they have to be heard, without any consideration for which one they like the best or think will actually work well, so this question helps them focus their thinking.
  • I ask the group which ideas they could get behind.  They can vote for all the ideas, or just one, but it’s essentially a question of which options could you live with.  Sometimes this is a show of hands and it would need to be in a large group.  Sometimes it’s just a noise level vote as we go down the list and kids twitter or nod with yeses and no ways.
  • I erase the ideas that didn’t have any or much support.  This step always knocks out a large number of things the kids have mentioned – if only one kid, or even no kids – want to stand behind an idea, then it’s usually obvious even to them that it won’t work.
  • BUT…  Before I erase something or mark it as out, I always ask the group again.  “It sounds like this idea is out.  Is that right?”  Typically, the kids just nod.  Occasionally, there’s a sad noise emitted that someone’s idea has bit the dust, but the kid lets it go.  Every once in awhile, a kid insists that an idea stay in the running, so I leave it there.
  • If there are still a lot of ideas left, then I repeat the above, seeing what has the most support and what has very little, then knocking out those ideas.
  • I point out which ideas had the most support and may circle them or put a mark next to them.
  • I ask the kids to talk about the ideas with the most support or take a vote just between those.  Sometimes, the kids waiver.  They’re often pretty fickle about it at this stage.  I don’t let them discuss for more than a minute or two though.
  • I point to the idea that seems to have the most consensus by saying something like, “It sounds like this idea is one that most people like.”  Sometimes they agree and it’s chosen or they disagree and another idea is chosen.
  • BUT…  If they don’t agree, we talk some more about it.  Sometimes a compromise is suggested, such as a way to combine the ideas or another idea altogether.
  • If they’re not doing it already (they usually are), I get everyone to really listen to the objections of anyone holding out against the group.  If the kids don’t (they usually do), then I suggest ways that the hold out kid can pick something else.  There’s bargaining and discussion about what will work best for everyone.
  • We usually don’t stop until everyone agrees, even if it’s not their first choice.  I know that sounds nigh on impossible for such young kids, but I swear it works.  And the more often that I do it with them, the better they get at doing it with each other.

Overall, the most important thing I’ve found is to keep the process moving.  Deciding something, even something contentious, shouldn’t take more than fifteen minutes at most, twenty if the group is new to the process of reaching consensus.  And once something is decided, unless there’s a reason, then I strongly encourage them to stick to their decision.

This is one of the skills that Destination Imagination really teaches if you let it.  In my mind, it’s far and away better than any type of social education they could ever get in most schools, which is why I think the program is perfect for homeschoolers.  It’s also one of those life skills that I hope one day (a long way down the road) will help them, whether they’re team teaching, working in an engineering group to fix a problem, arguing policy in a political office, or working in a hospital with colleagues to help a patient.