Friday, March 15, 2013

DI Details. With Video!

Destination Imagination (DI) is a program that fosters creativity, independent learning, and teamwork. Each school year, teams of children work together to solve specific problems. Parents and coaches sign strict non-interference pledges for anything relating directly to the main challenge.

Although the policy is frustrating at first--okay, I'll be honest, it's frustrating the whole time--adults quickly see the benefits of letting the kids work out both technical and teamwork problems by themselves. As an example, a parent might teach a child to sew a pillowcase and then let the child sew a simple cloak herself. This independent creativity teaches life skills in an amazing and lasting way.

Here's another example: when I assisted with the script, I asked leading questions and, I admit it, held the pencil and scribbled frantically, trying to capture everything the kids said. The children just weren't coordinated enough to hold the pencil that long and none of them could type. Scribing was probably an appropriate assist for third-graders, but I would consider it too "hovering helicopter" for fifth graders.

Methinks Daniel will work on typing practice this summer.

Representative sample conversation:
Gail: [pencil poised] So what happens next?
Lydia: Well, they go to candy land, and they talk to the witch, and they get the unicorn...
Gail: Can you be more specific?
Daniel: Well, they walk through a magic portal to get to candy land and they meet the witch who asks them some riddles and then they get the unicorn...
Gail: Thanks for those details. What does the witch say?
Lydia: Well, she asks them if they will take good care of her unicorn and they say yes and then she says "Okay, unicorn, now go with them."
Gail: Aha! Actual dialogue! [She writes] Can you give me some more direct quotes from the witch?
[Lydia and Daniel stare at Gail blankly]
Gail: [sighing] Okay, let's pretend I'm a villager. I walk up to the witch and I say...what?
Daniel: [rolling his eyes at his mom's obtuseness] 'Hello, witch, can we use borrow your unicorn?'
Gail: That's it! Perfect! [She scribbles] Then, Lydia, what does the witch say?
Lydia: 'Will you take good care of him?'

You can see how it takes a lot more time than doing it myself. It also takes a lot more time than telling them what to do and how to do it. On the other hand, if they flail around a little until they figure it out themselves, they are much more likely to retain their lessons. Nothing teaches like actual experience. As Ms. Frizzle would say "Take chances, make mistakes, and get messy."

There was one moment when I could see the perfect way to tie to ideas together in the script. The kids missed it. I bit my lip and said nothing. It was hard. I told Jon later "You can tell I did not write the script. If I had written the script, it would have been very different. For one thing, it would incorporate more transitions." As it was, I may still have "led" them a little too much. Though I did try really hard to control myself.

Take that frustration and multiply it by several hundred. That's what poor Renae went through all the time.

For more details about Daniel's DI team, check out this post by their great coach:

Also, there is now a video up of their performance at the regional competition. When you watch it, remember they did all the work directly relating to the challenge themselves. Adults helped indirectly by providing transportation and treats. Plus a modicum of money.

You can see the video here:

Aren't you proud of them? I am. :)

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