Since last fall, K has been working with six other kids in her grade as part of a DI (Destination Imagination) team.
For those of you unfamiliar with DI, here's a little information:
The Destination Imagination Challenge Program is a fun, hands-on system of learning that fosters students’ creativity, curiosity and courage through academic Challenges.
In laymen's terms, students form teams of up to 7 members, select their preferred Challenge and work together to develop a solution to the Challenge. They research and prepare how they want to compete in their chosen challenge, and then they do all of the work involved...from writing a script to building all props to designing costumes. Oh, and all under a team budget of $150! Team managers and parents can not "help" in any way other than to supervise and mediate.
The second part of the competition is called "Instant Challenge". Teams can practice different ways to attack an instant challenge (IC), but they can't really prepare for it - they don't know what their challenge is until they compete. Sometimes it's a building challenge, sometimes an improv skit. It's a think on your feet, work well with your team and accomplish something on the spot in a few short minutes kind of thing. No pressure. Ha!
This is K's first year to participate and we had no idea what we were getting into! Since October her team (Metallic Chickens) has met weekly (often several times a week) working on their challenge. They chose the Scientific Challenge:
Their unlikely location? An ancient Chinese garden. Their attraction? An animatronic dragon.
Five months ago, when this concept was first taking shape, the idea of it was overwhelming to me. I'd never been involved in DI, so to see everything happen from the ground up (since I was recruited to be a team manager...ha ha) was interesting to say the least. These kids have a lot of great ideas, a lot of energy and a lot of opinions. To see seven different personalities come together and work on a huge project like this is impressive.
EVERYTHING has to be done by the team. Adults can supervise (such as when they are using a soldering iron, staple gun or table saw!) and keep them on track, but nobody except the team members can contribute to the creation of every aspect of their solution to the challenge.
The Metallic Chickens painted an AMAZING backdrop for the Chinese garden. They built their animatronic dragon named ODIS ("Our Dragon Is Supreme"), which utilizes hydraulics and oscillation for movement. They built a pedestal and bushes, designed all their own costumes and wrote a complete script explaining the presence of ODIS in the garden and how he affects the unlikely location.
In February they competed against 13 other middle school and junior high teams at the regional tournament. Only the first place team advanced to the state competition.
Metallic Chickens won first place!
Wow. Ok. My fellow team managers and the team parents knew these kids were smart. We saw how hard they worked, how many hours they put in, the fantastic ideas they came up with. Did I have any idea they would compete so well, well enough to win first place in the region? No way.
ODIS lives to see another day. (He's a bit of a diva.... high maintenance and fragile even though he's cute). Our team had five more weeks of rehearsals and work days to get ready for State. Our script was tweaked to perfection and the props were spruced up a bit.
This past Saturday was the State Competition in Mansfield. We left on the bus at 6:45am. It was 86 degrees the day before. On the way to Mansfield the temperature was 29. There were SNOW FLURRIES floating around when we arrived. It was just the start of what would be a surreal day.
I don't have any idea how many total teams participated at State. It was held at three different contest locations (high schools), but it seemed like everyone was crammed into one building. Teams were lined up throughout the school, down hallways, in the cafeteria.... eating lunch on the run, dressing and putting makeup on in the middle of the chaos. Our team had IC first, shortly after we arrived. They aren't allowed to talk about the specifics until after Globals so as not to give anything away, so nobody besides the team members, the judges and the one team manager allowed in the room know what their IC was.
When the Metallic Chickens came back to our "home base" in the cafeteria I asked how they did.... thumbs up or thumbs down? They looked at me and kind of waved their hand back and forth. The team manager that went with them said they did well, but they didn't KNOW they did well because they didn't really understand the challenge. They worked through it, though, and she said they did it, even though they didn't know it. ha ha IC has definitely been a challenge for our team, so for her to be smiling about how she thought they did left us feeling good.
After lunch it was on to the Team Challenge. Makeup was finished up, costumes were donned and props were unpacked. We checked in with an appraiser and the team enthusiastically described their unlikely location and props.
They competed at 1:40pm in a classroom with half a dozen appraisers (judges) around the room ready to watch. Our team had a room full of family and friends there for support. Even Mr. Light, the school district superintendent, came to support the Wylie teams!
The performance went well. There was a stumble over a line or two, and a malfunction with the crown (for once ODIS wasn't the problem), but other than that, good job Metallic Chickens!
As a team manager and parent, I was apprehensive. I knew they were good.... they made it to State! But Saturday's performance was not the best they've done. Things didn't all go smoothly. But they did it and did it well. About an hour after they competed we were able to get their raw scores. These tell you how the appraisers scored them based on the different elements of their challenge.... but that's about it. You don't really know how you did until you know how they scored everyone else!
Our scores were really good. Only slightly lower than our regional score, and everyone said that was to be expected. After all, at State you are going against all #1 teams! We were happy with the score, and even happier with the appraisers' comments:
We had several hours to pack up the props, change clothes and eat dinner before the awards ceremony that evening. The Chickens blew off some steam and refueled at a restaurant near the field house.
If you ever look up "mass chaos" in the dictionary, you would probably find a picture of a DI awards ceremony.
Holy cow. People everywhere. Hyper kids, exhausted team managers, loud music, beach balls flying, glow sticks all around! It's loads of fun but also seems endless.... just give us the results!!!!!
It seemed to take forever because there are a handful of different challenge categories, and for each one there are several different age levels (elementary, middle and secondary.... some even had university level). So having to listen to them announce the top six or eight (depending on the challenge) teams in every age group of every challenge..... even though they went quickly, we were getting very impatient. And very nervous!
The top six teams advance to Globals in Knoxville, Tennessee.... but in our challenge we were up against 19 other teams. And we had no idea how they did! We were not able to watch anyone else's.
When they finally started announcing for Unlikely Location my stomach was in knots. The kids were on the edge of their seats, hands clasped in prayer, watching the screen avidly. I did not want their hearts broken.
Sixth place....not us.
Fifth place....not us.
Fourth place....not us.
Third place....not us.
Surely we weren't top two?
THEY DID IT!!!!
METALLIC CHICKENS ARE GOING TO GLOBALS!!
To say I was stunned is an understatement. To say I was proud is an even bigger understatement. I went from ready to cry for their disappointment to shocked and elated in the span of ten seconds.....
So yes.... ODIS lives to see ANOTHER competition. There are some more repairs to be made, and the next five weeks will be filled with rehearsals and work days..... just like the last six months. (I just thought softball season never ended!) We will leave for Knoxville on May 21 and the competition starts May 23. There are a lot of details to take care of between now and then and right now we're on information overload, but still.... I couldn't be more thrilled for my girl and her teammates.
Monday morning on the way to school, she sent me this text from the bus:
That says it all, doesn't it?
If you've read this entire post, thank you. The Metallic Chickens have traveled a long road, and they aren't at the end yet! Please say prayers for safe travels to Tennessee and for them to do their best at Globals.
For those of you who haven't been able to see them, here is their State performance that earned them a trip to Globals: