Friday, March 1, 2013

Welcome to Destination Imagination

If you haven't heard about DI or Destination Imagination, it is nothing but a great platform for kids to show up their talent, creativity and to prove to themselves and to the world that they can be successful in a team environment - collaborating every team member's suggestions, thoughts, perspectives in a time challenged competition.

Every year I used to see the DI pamphlet in my kids' Newsday folder, but I used to throw it in the trash as the whole thing is run by a parent. So I thought - not a good idea to put your child under some adult's supervision who may not even know have in-depth knowledge of how to carry on the whole process especially when it it comes to scientific experiments. And one thing worried me is about being partial to one's own child than think about what is right or making sound judgments - which does not benefit any kid.

One day when I approached someone about my son - not being social in a new environment - feels intimidated when he surrounds himself with his age unfamiliar kids. The person whom I approached suggested DI as it will help him to open up and be much more friendly irrespective of environment.

At the same time, my son's friend's mom called to ask whether I'm interested. I said "yes". But quickly able to found out that when parents are involved, things won't work in the interest of kids as their priorities take over than the needs of kids. In this case, after our first meeting, everybody couldn't decide the day/time for next meeting as one parent started saying - Oh, I'm not free...and then the other parent - my child is not free... and then another - I have something else to do... Finally, we reached a date - only later to find out that the lead parent decided to split the team as seven members in a team is too difficult for her to handle. As expected of what to expect from DI when it is run by a parent came true - no thought of kids here - individual parent decides who should be thrown where.

Somehow, I found one more kid and made a team of four led by other parent whom you will know future of what a character she is.

An example to show how the structure is
holding the weight.

This is how you build some
structure with unthinkable objects
like paper or cards, pasta or straws.
Later testing out to find whether
the structure can withstand the weight.
The more the weight, the structure
 can withstand, the chance of winning
goes higher.
This team of four decided to do structure - one among six categories in DI. For more on how to tutor, here is the link.

While performing the final act of putting weights on the structure, the rest of the team members need to perform a play based on the "structure" theme in front of the appraisers.

The person who is the lead is a working mom. When she decided to take the lead, I thought to myself - wow, how can she juggle both - DI responsibilities, work and kids. As expected, she couldn't manage. The purpose of DI is to teach kids of how to be creative with the objects you have and simultaneously learn nitty-gritty details about how you can use science knowledge to build a great structure which is unique and as well as bears the weight as great design will not hold much weight if it is poorly constructed.

The lead-parent somehow made them build but her heart was not into it as she frequently complained about how poor the kids are with their workmanship. Some are worried about glue sticking to their hands and some are not interested and some just want to play or whine.

One day on early release school day, she requested parents to drop kids at her home so she can work on the play, but after six hours, when I went to check on their drama, nothing was done, the whole house was a mess. Later I found out from my son that the lead parent left them to themselves while she was working on computer. Next day, she texts me to help the team with the play. I accepted and asked everyone to drop their kids at my home.

After four hours, we were ready with the script. I had so much fun. DI's other strict rule is parent should not interfere by suggesting any kind of thought in kids' process. All I did was made them sit around the table - questioned on their previous script - asked why this way/ why that way. I made them think about their choices. I had trouble with one kid who is none other then lead parent's daughter. But I quickly resolved with her by laying out my expectations from her and the team. They were on flow with poetic was of expressing dialogues with humor in-between. That's when I thought, working with kids is so much fun and so rewarding - an immense satisfaction.

When the lead parent came, she was astonished that I was able to achieve what she couldn't. She harassed me by asking questions like did you plan the whole thing beforehand as you don't go to work, it is possible for you to plan as you don't have much going on in your life, did you help or suggest the kids of how to write, did you interfere in their thought process...she started lecturing me about DI and its principles. I said, "not to interfere means not letting the kids to themselves but as a lead parent you're supposed to lead - show them the path - push them by questioning, listening, sorting out differences, arguments - teaching them manners of how to respect others thoughts, not overpower with one's own smartness but giving chance to other team members to open up and letting soft spoken kid to come up with thoughts/suggestions. That's what I did that day - gave everybody a chance - pushed them to think clear - encouraged them to be creative. The lead parent's daughter is smart and full of ideas but she was squishing way other kids by knocking of other team members ideas. And on top of that suggesting to others that she is the queen of ideas. Well, I had to say to her that DI is a team game not one-man's show. Once I encouraged other kids to open, the thoughts were flowing from all directions.

Next day, the kids rehearsed and made some props for the play. And again the lead parent came, but this time did not go but started pestering me to go for shopping for the required material on my own as she doesn't have time and suggested to me that I should do on Mon-Fri as I don't go for work and have plenty of time for myself. I said to her, "ask me for help, I'll do but don't talk about my day to day affair."

I don't understand, what is her problem. Instead of being happy that I'm helping her and the play is turning up well, she started torturing me for me being nice and helpful. The worst thing about her is she is stingy. Just hates to spend, want everything free, plans and buys - everything on coupons. No coupons - then fine - I'm ready to jeopardize the quality of the work but won't buy anything without a deal - THAT IS HER MOTTO.

And the other thing in DI is instant challenges - fun and challenging. As a lead parent, she did not expose kids to the material. She was supposed to spend fifteen minutes every week, but she skipped as no time for her to plan. Beginning of the DI, she declined other parents' help. Don't know whether it is due to ego or scared where they will make her spend money on materials. Well, who knows?

I told her that we need to do some experiments with them or at least expose them to the material - teach them how many different ways a straw or a band or a paper or a paper clip can be used. DI allows every team to spend certain amount,  but she doesn't want to. She want to do experiments at my home, but won't plan out beforehand of what material need to do those experiments. On fly, she asks me do you have this or do you have that, then that time I need to run and waste time in finding the material.

Anyway, because of her, tomorrow I have to do long hours of volunteering as an appraiser. But luckily, thanks to DI organizers, who said that I can excuse myself to watch my child's performance. Every team have to send a volunteer to do appraising job or else should be ready to pay $120.

Why to spend money on T-shirts? That won't give points if the structure fails.
Its all about points not about learning or the experience or the team spirit.
Well, that's here thought process!!!
 Disturbing and shocking!!
Much more drama happened with the parent lead, but I have to no patience to type out. All I can say is DI is really great for kids. I never knew until I worked with kids that they have so much to offer in the land of creativity and DI just does that. I'm overwhelmed to see the volunteers who showed up on the training day, who have nothing to do with kids or the program but still are volunteering for a great cause and for a bright future. FYI, appraisers should be someone who is other than a parent as in this way, parent can get to see the child's performance.

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