Pine River teams celebrate state trip

LEROY – Students shared their creative talent with parents and community members at the Destination ImagiNation Dinner and Show Sunday at Pine River High School.

Destination ImagiNation is a world-wide program that encourages imagination and creative problem solving among students in preschool through 12th grade. Groups of students are given one of seven challenges and have to solve a problem through a skit and engineering at a regional competition. This year’s competition was held on March 10. Nine of the 10 Pine River teams placed first, second or third in their age bracket and will move on to the state competition on April 21.

“The (students) put in so much time and work,” said Terry Cosgrove, Destination ImagiNation program director at Pine River. “They started in November and many of them practiced three times a week.”

Approximately 85 students are involved in the Pine River program, each team with between five and 10 members and a parent or school staff member as a coach. Students work together to create skits, backgrounds and props to creatively complete their challenge. They are encouraged to break out of the mold of traditional problem solving methods.

“With all the testing students are exposed to in the academic year, this gives them an opportunity to expand that,” Cosgrove said.

Students are asked to think critically to successfully complete challenges, such as create a structure that contains golfballs and holds as much weight as possible, create and act out a movie trailer involving two countries, or create an improv skit in four minutes combining two ideas and having characters with needles as legs.

Pine River DI alumni have gone on to be attorneys, lawyers, ad agency workers and more and some have written to Cosgrove telling her how much of an asset the program was to their lives in their current career.

“It really changes their self esteem in that they believe in themselves at an early age,” Cosgrove said.

Pine River students have a history of success at the competition. Last year, a middle school team competed in the structure challenge and took first place at the state competition and 26th place out of 70 teams at the global competition.

“My heart beats so fast every time I think about them calling our team for first place,” said seventh grader Wade Fullerton, member of the winning team last year.

Fullerton is in his second year being on a DI team and said the program has given him the opportunity to become good friends with many of his teammates. He enjoys working with together with other students his age to solve the DI challenges.

“It’s about getting to know your planet and getting to feel comfortable with other people,” Wade said.

This year, Wade’s team is completing the Project Outreach challenge and constructing water filtration systems to be sent to Haiti. Each group is responsible for creating a business plan and raising support for their own project’s completion. The team currently has raised $200 through fundraisers, enough to build and send two filtration systems to Haiti.

Wade, who wants to be an astrophysicist one day, said Destination ImagiNation has helped him see what he is capable of doing.

“Destination Imagination is all about group effort, creativity and problem solving,” Wade said.

Many students in the DI program have been involved from the time they were very young and grown up in the program.

The nine Pine River teams will compete in the state competition on April 21 at Central Michigan University. The top two teams will advance to the global competition, which includes students from 110 countries. The global competition will be held in Tennessee.