September 29, 2022

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Growing Innovation After School

Growing Innovation After School

Last week I spent in one of the few places in the world that creativity and innovation skills weren’t allowed – they were required to get in the doors. I was with about 7,500 of the world’s most creative and innovative kids and it wasn’t where you think.

The trips for these kids started last fall as they created teams of up to seven students. Actually, more than 100,000 students joined teams in schools and community groups in more than 30 countries including China, Korea, Brazil, the U.K., Canada and the U.S. Their goals were to build teamwork, creativity and problem-solving skills as part of the not-for-profit Destination ImagiNation program.  I was with the top 1,156 creative problem-solving student teams from around the world at Destination ImagiNation Global Finals.

This is where it gets hard to describe because the road to learning to be creative and problem-solve as a team is a process that is pretty dull to read about, but exciting to see.

“DI” teams of up to seven students select a “Team Challenge” to work on all year. There are six different Challenges that the team can select based on their interests in technology, science and math, the arts, improvisation, architectural design or community service. Each Challenge also incorporates core school subjects into nearly 20 scoring areas. Each Challenge requires research, performance and think-on-your-feet skills and must be totally student done from beginning to end, including every idea and constructed item. Yes, I’m saying that third graders are managing a budget, working a timeline, developing the ideas and building everything for their solution as a team without adult assistance. This requires the team to first learn to work together, identify and leverage skills in others (and themselves) and develop that “team dynamic” that makes it all possible. The results may look like a short performance in competition, but are really well-crafted solutions to complex challenges.

“The DI competition requires students to work through some very demanding critical thinking and problem solving assignments that strengthen our educational systems by enhancing the learning processes taking place in the classroom,” according to Chuck Cadle, M.Ed., and CEO of Destination ImagiNation.

Watching these kids interact with other kids from different states, provinces or countries, they defined what it meant to compete WITH another team instead of AGAINST a team. They already have something in common with the other teams: They all got to Global Finals by being the most creative teams in their region, in their selected Challenge and grade level.

Roger Garriock, the Director, Destination ImagiNation Canada/International Operations shared a better explanation: “We need to add the four ‘Cs’…creativity, critical thinking, collaboration and communication…to the three ‘Rs’.” Destination ImagiNation accomplishes this and creates students who are capable of not just learning, but by building on knowledge to help solve the problems of a family, a community, a company or the world.

THAT is what these kids are doing – they are adding those four C’s to the three R’s to develop innovative solutions to complex Challenges that creates a “wow factor” – and that is a life skill they will have forever.  That is why 3M, National Dairy Council, Ameresco, IBM, AEM, Volvo CE and the Motorola Foundation all support the program and NASA was among the numerous organizations that had a presence at the event:  Their future is with these student problem-solvers and the 1.3 million Destination ImagiNation program alumni around the globe.


Disclaimer: I was at Destination ImagiNation Global Finals as their social media coordinator and volunteer on the board of directors of New Hampshire Destination ImagiNation.

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