They work such wonders that Ridgway’s three teams took first place in three out of five categories at the Western Slope district meet on March 8 in Rifle: Technical/Mechanical Design; Theatrical/Literary/Fine Arts; and Improvisation. They will advance to the state tournament on Saturday, April 26 in Jefferson County.
This year’s teams include the Fairy Bunch, a group of seven sixth-grade girls who attempt to prove that fairies aren’t real in the “Hit or Myth” category. A team of seven boys and girls of various ages who call themselves Zesty Fruitfully Delicious Mango Habañero Dip will compete in the improvisational acting category. Four middle-school boys, the Ridgway Inventors, will compete in “Obstacles, of Course.”
Destination ImagiNation is designed to help kids use their creativity to solve problems. Twice a week from October through April, the students gather after school to practice. They might work on devising a script they will present at the tournament, or work on an instant challenge to improve problem-solving skills. In one challenge, the kids are asked to create something that meets specific qualifications, like a bridge between two pipes that stretches at least 20 inches. Allocated five minutes and a handful of household items like straws and paperclips, they work as a team to meet the prescribed goals.
The kids take the reins in every contest. They have to come up with solutions and ideas all on their own. Each team has an adult manager who acts not as a coach but as a facilitator. Team Fairy Bunch leader Margret Benasutti considers herself mainly an aggrandized babysitter, providing snacks and adult supervision. She can’t even offer suggestions. However, if kids think of questions, she is there to help them come up with answers. This pushes kids to think independently, she says.
Program Coordinator Mallory Clarke, who is also the improv team’s coach, values Destination’s ability to teach leadership skills. She also sees it as an incentive for kids to keep their grades up – they aren’t allowed to participate if their grades drop below passing.
A dozen or so district trophies line a shelf in Clarke’s classroom at the Ridgway Secondary School proving past success at regional meets over the years. Maybe this year the kids will add a winning trophy from the state tournament to that shelf.