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Destination Imagination: A Team Leader Interview

Destination Imagination Quote by Coach and mother on children making mistakes on their own and what they learn from it

It’s Back to School and Extracurricular Time!

The other day I met someone whose role embodies free play, independence fostering, and all sorts of wonderful things we never really take time to think about but are instrumental in developing the skills we value in our future leaders. Her name is Christine Berman and she is a mother and a Destination Imagination (an extracurricular program) team leader. This information is from an interview in the upcoming It’s All Kid’s Play newsletter. Click here to get the full interview and learn more about this great program.

What is Destination Imagination?

Basically, Destination Imagination is a team program for kids in the preschool to grade 12 range who get together to solve creative challenges. Challenges can be brief (5 minutes) or longer (such as a month long) and more involved. They can compete locally or on the international level. There are over 30 countries and over 100,000 students involved in the Destination Imagination program.

Here is an example of a Main Challenge that my daughter’s team solved in the past: in the Structural challenge, they needed to create a structure made entirely of newspaper and glue which weighed less than 30 grams, but could hold as much weight as possible. This structure then had to be incorporated into a creative 8-minute skit of a retelling of a newspaper article about an important event occurring in a different country. My team’s take on this… Their 13-gram structure held 450 lbs and was integral in the re-stabilization of the leaning Tower of Pisa, which had originally been damaged by Super Mario as he raced in the Italian Grand Prix.  Not one adult could have thought that up! –Christine Berman

What do Kids Learn in the Destination Imagination Program?

According to Christine, they learn skills such as: “problem solving, patience, budgeting, writing, team work, hard work, scheduling, patience, team building, art, mathematics, engineering skills, acting, technology, playing by the rules, patience, flexibility, communication with others, self-esteem, fast thinking, dealing with stress… did I mention patience?”

That sounds like a lot of the same essential skills kids learn via free play.

How is it that this STRUCTURED program leads to the same benefits as UNSTRUCTURED free play? Here’s how:

The team managers don’t tell kids how to solve the problems they present them with. The kids run the show. According to Christine, parents even sign a “no interference” contract! And during competitions if the coaches/adult leaders make a peep during the challenges the team will be penalized or even disqualified. In other words, the coaches/adult leaders simply provide the team with the resources they need such as a meeting place, take them shopping for materials, and teach them how to do things such as use a power drill, how to sew, or how to use a glue gun as requested by the kids. The kids are responsible for EVERYTHING else from getting along to deciding how to take on a project to what materials they will need to how to manage a team and resolve conflicts. Everything.

Watching your child make a mistake without saying anything is absolutely contrary to being a parent, but their mistakes mean much more when they see it for themselves. That’s where the real lessons are learned! –Christine Berman

Kind of sounds like real life, doesn’t it? And if you think back to your own childhood some bells might be ringing there too.

How awesome is Destination Imagination?

To learn more about this fantastic program, see project photos, and to read more of the interview, subscribe (for free) to the It’s All Kid’s Play newsletter. Once you’ve done that, share what your favourite extracurricular program from when you were a kid. (Or if you have Destination Imagination experience, share that too–I’d love to hear more!

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