This past week, we were in Knoxville, TN for Destination Imagination (DI) Global Finals. DI is a program that teaches creativity, problem solving, teamwork, and public performance to children. There are several different categories of events, called challenges: Technical, Structural, Scientific, Performance/Fine Arts, Improvisation, and Community Service. Each challenge has a central problem to solve with particular rules and scoring elements. Each team develops a skit around the solving of that problem, referred to as their ‘Central Challenge’. Each team also competes in the ‘Instant Challenge’, a short timed event where they are given a problem to solve and they must work together right then to solve it the best they can. Teams then place based on a combination of their Central and Instant Challenge scores.
In Texas (I can’t speak for the other states or countries), teams first compete in a Regional competition. The first so many teams in each Challenge and age division (Elementary, Middle, Secondary, University) qualify to go to the State competition. Since DI is a big deal in Texas, qualifying for State is exciting. And that’s exactly what Daryl’s team did last year, their first year to compete.
They didn’t go on to Globals, but his sister, Jane, was enamored by the hype and excitement of State and fascinated by the older teams’ skits. She declared her intent to participate in DI the next year. Lucky for her, a friend’s parents decided to coach a team and invited her to be on it. I was a little bit worried about this. Daryl
loved loves DI. And it was kind of his thing. His sister has a powerful force of personality. It’s not often that he has the opportunity to do something before she does. I feared that he was always following behind in her big footsteps and now she was taking over something that was his.
It didn’t seem to affect him that way, although he was annoyed when her team picked the same Challenge as his. Both children loved their team and their team’s implementation of the solution. At the Regional competition, the Elementary winners were announce with no mention of Daryl’s team. Jane’s team, however, rocked the house with special awards and a ticket to the State competition.
Daryl insisted he wasn’t jealous, that he was happy to return to State even if his team wasn’t participating. And it seemed genuine. He, after all, had gone to State his first year too. So off to State we went, wondering if they’d go on to the next step. They had performed so well at Regional, that when we reserved our hotel room in Austin for State, we went ahead and reserved a room in Knoxville – just in case. The rooms fill up fast.
That turned out to be a good thing. The girls won another special award at State and qualified to go on. While everyone else was frantically making hotel reservations that night, we calmly walked to our car and hugged our excited daughter. At this point, there was no jealousy at all… provided, Daryl said, that we let him go with us.
Global Finals truly is a big deal. I had someone snidely ask me if it was actually global or just Americans being full of ourselves, kind of like baseball’s World Series. Well, I wrote down the countries participating as they walked in with their flags and signs during the Opening Ceremonies. Besides 42 of the states in our Union and most, if not all, of the provinces in Canada, the following countries or territories had representation: China, Guatemala, Romania, Cayman Islands, Poland, Qatar, Turkey, Singapore, Mexico, Brazil, South Korea, US Virgin Islands, and Ecuador. We saw indication later that over 17,000 people were in attendance.
It was impressive.
There were three and a half days of competition, each Challenge running a team every 15 minutes all. day. long. Hundreds of hundreds of teams.
There were also side activities like the Luau, the Duct Tape Ball – where they set a record for the most number of people wearing Duct Tape clothing, a sneak preview of James Cameron’s DeapSea Challenge movie coming out in August, a Passport Party to provide information and food samples from the different countries (rained out by the time we got there), expos of exciting educational toys and fun opportunities, a Graduation Ceremony for seniors, and more.
We had a blast. The rest of my posts this week will chronicle some of our experiences there. We went to the Closing Ceremony Saturday night hoping for something great but working hard not to get our hopes up too much. After all, there were around one hundred teams participating in her Challenge. Top 20 or 30 would make us happy, her team manager had said. The top 10 would be posted on the Jumbo-tron. The top 3 would walk the stage. So probably we would know nothing about how they had done until the complete results were posted online later.
And then, there they were.
They had finished in the top 10 and they were up there on the screen. I screamed in excitement and struggled to take a picture – grateful that sleeping Hal had moved his dead weight off my arm moments before. I began to cry. No special awards, no walk across the stage, but still. They were one of the best in the world.
We asked Daryl if he was jealous. He said no and he seemed to mean it. He had had such a good time that he was grateful for the opportunity to be there and even, in a way, grateful to experience Globals for the first time without having to worry about a performance of his own. He plans to return next year in his own right.
DI is a big deal in our town. I’ve heard people talk about how their teams did before. I’ve heard the pride as they said they went to Globals. I’ve heard the pride as they said they finished seventh or twelfth or whatever. I’d always wondered how they could be so proud of something lower than third. I mean, really. If you aren’t getting a medal…?
But now I get it. Having been there, I now realize that there’s a whole range of things to be proud of. Her team on the Jumbo-tron? So many teams sat through that entire ceremony without the opportunity to cheer for themselves. They went home pleased that they had made it, maybe pleased with how they’d done, determined to do even better next year. But they weren’t called out. Our girls were and I couldn’t be prouder.