Seven PVC Student Teams Win Top Placements In Destination Imagination NYS Finals
“Kids can be empowered to change the world,” states Destination Imagination (DI), a global community united under the core belief that if students have the freedom to grow and collaborate without boundaries, their confidence will explode and the world will open up for them in new ways. Since its inception in 1999, DI’s primary mission has been to inspire youth to think and engage in innovative ways so that they can one day become creative and collaborative leaders. The organization encourages this mindset with carefully curated challenges that students can participate in through their school’s DI clubs. Each year, their integrative learning experiences culminate in an exciting, collaborative, problem-solving competition in the spring.
On April 2nd, seven Pierre Van Cortlandt 5th-8th grade teams participated in the New York State DI finals, located at SUNY Broome in Binghamton. This year, a remarkable 41 students enrolled in the program—including 4 new teams of enthusiastic 5th graders—and all of them attended the state finals. Prior to the tournament, teams chose to compete in one of the following categories: Technical, Scientific, Fine Arts, Improvisational, Engineering, Service Learning, or Early Learning. The PVC DI teams spent many months practicing critical-thinking exercises (“Instant Challenges”) and addressing their categories’ specific prompts before competing against more than 20 schools across the state and finally presenting their creative solutions to a variety of open-ended STEAM challenges. Each of their presentations was bursting with distinctive creativity and innovation.
One 8th grade team, “Ja Ja Jenius”, competed in the Fine Arts category, where they were faced with a prompt called “Tricky Tales”. This challenge required them to tell a story about a “trickster” who overcomes a tricky situation. A trickster is defined as a character who uses intellect, secret knowledge or mischief to play tricks or break rules—students needed to ruminate on this notion in order to tell a successful and compelling story. Ja Ja Jenius wrote, directed and acted out a story about a race with a grand prize in which the trickster lies to the other contestants about the nature of the race.
“In Destination Imagination, you have about 7 months to solve a challenge with your team—parents and team managers aren’t allowed to help,” described Maya, 8th-grade team member of “TBD”. “Since nobody can tell you how to do something, you have to try out many things and experiment a lot.”
Additionally, teams were expected to design and create an original costume transformation as well as an illusion to fool the audience’s senses during their presentations. Ja Ja Jenius’ exciting skit featured expandable and collapsible backpack wings constructed with PVC piping and tulle, which were worn by one race contestant, as well as a red acrylic glass illusion that revealed hidden messages, which was utilized by the trickster to find out secrets about the race. Ja Ja Jenius placed 2nd in the Middle-Level Fine Arts Challenge with their impressive display of creativity.
Despite the lack of adult assistance and the high level of competition, all PVC DI teams placed very high—including the 5th-grade teams who were participating in a DI competition for their first time! CHUFSD celebrates the hard work and placements of all the winning teams:
- Chaos Squad (5th Grade Team): 1st Place in "Festival Frenzy", Elementary Level, Improv Challenge
- Tech Wizards - 5th Grade Team: 2nd Place in "Daring Escape", Elementary Level, Technical Challenge
- Greg's Angels - 8th Grade Team: 2nd Place in "Daring Escape", Middle Level, Technical Challenge
- Jai Ja Jenius - 8th Grade Team: 2nd Place in "Tricky Tales", Middle Level, Fine Arts Challenge
- TBD - 8th/6th Grade Team: 2nd Place in "Roll with It", Middle Level, Engineering Challenge
- Legendeers - 5th Grade Team: 3rd Place in "Roll with It", Elementary Level, Engineering Challenge
- The Peacocks - 5th Grade Team: 4th Place in "Tricky Tales", Elementary Level, Fine Arts Challenge
“I’m so proud of all these talented and creative kids! Beyond the creativity and caliber of their work, I saw firsthand how kind and supportive they all were of each other throughout the entire process, even in stressful competitive situations,” said Suzanne Gardos, advisor and co-coordinator of the PVC DI club. Ms. Gardos has been involved with DI for the past 9 years—she was initially recruited as a parent fundraising volunteer but took on more active roles as she became more passionate about the program.
Ms. Gardos elaborated how rewarding it is to watch students as they grow and flourish within the program, particularly noting how proud she was witnessing once-shy 5th graders emerge as confident 8th graders who are eager to help, appraise, and advise younger kids. Her continued experiences keep her convinced that DI is an invaluable STEAM-based program that helps kids obtain lifelong skills such as perseverance, creative problem solving, collaboration, time management, public speaking, and much more. She encourages even more students to participate in the coming years.
“DI is one of my favorite activities,” expressed Maya. “It’s not just about the challenges and solutions. DI is a place where I make new friends, have fun and learn many things such as teamwork and other ‘real life’ skills—that is the amazing part, and the reason I keep doing it. I’m so glad our school has a DI program.”