Improv-ising lands middle schoolers on world stage

Jun 4, 2018

The Dartmouth Middle School Destination Imagination team, "We Are A Vegan!", was not joking around when it came to Global Finals in Nashville, Tennessee in May.

Okay, they were kind of joking around.

Destination Imagination is an educational nonprofit which aims to teach children life skills through technology, engineering, math, the arts, and social entrepreneurship-focused challenges. This year, the team laughed and acted its way to the Global Finals.

Given eight explorers and cultural treasurers across the globe to research, the group set to tell a story about Elon Musk — of Tesla and SpaceX fame — and birder John James Audubon in a field of mooing cows, and a missing Great Wall of China.

The story helped the students place 40th out of more than 70 teams. Now, teammates are shifting gears and hope to return to the competition next year.

“Considering it was our first year I am extremely proud,” team member Ryan Arruda said.

However, the competition didn’t come without some struggles, like instant challenges where the team was faced with building contraptions out of limited materials. During a previous state competition, the students had to make a contraption which would hold a banana as close as possible to a table without touching it.

Although the project is random to the students, it develops skills people employ throughout life.

“It’s problem-solving,” member Teagan Witzig said. “Like, if you had to do this in real life to do something, how would you do it and in an effective way?”

As for member Ryan Duggan, it helped him work on his public speaking. After the team was done performing or completing a task, members had to discuss how students solved the problem.

During the trip, students also expanded their horizons after meeting people from all over the world, and even participated in a pin swap to commemorate the journey.

Maydn Waskiewicz, like her fellow peers, kept her pins on her Destination Imagination towel.

Each row had its own significance, with one being specifically dedicated to pins from other countries. The experience forged new friendships, not only among teammates but with other competitors.

“When we went to Tennessee, I totally forgot Massachusetts,” Arruda said. “Like Ryan [Duggan] said it’s such a surreal experience to see everyone and everything there. I feel like I was in another home."