The inaugural Urbana Elementary School (UES) Destination Imagination team, the Hilarious Hawks, placed third in their challenge at the Western Maryland Destination Imagination tournament held March 16 at Williamsport High School. The Hawks competed against eight other teams in the service-learning challenge, and the top three winners of that challenge advance to states.
“They were over the moon,” Christy Issler, Hilarious Hawks coach and mother of team member Zachary, said of the win at regionals.
A total of 57 teams from across Western Maryland, including 23 from Frederick County Public Schools, attended the regional tournament. Teams competed in six challenge categories—technical, scientific, engineering, fine arts, improvisational and service learning.
Destination Imagination is an educational nonprofit dedicated to inspiring the next generation of creative problem solvers. Through a project-based challenge and an instant challenge given to teams at competitions, students develop skills they’ll need for success in a quickly evolving world. According to the Destination Imagination website, the program “encourages teams of learners to have fun, take risks, focus and frame challenges while incorporating STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), the arts and service learning.”
Each team chooses its project-based challenge. The seven-member Hilarious Hawks team of third-, fourth- and fifth graders—Alex Barlow, Zachary Issler, Eliana Delisle, Katie Schmitt, Aditi Senthilkumar, John Kidd and Aiza Kazmi—chose the Service Learning Challenge: Escape Artists.
The team was tasked with completing a project that makes the world a better place—and then creating a dramatic performance that tells the audience about their project and how it will continue to make a difference. This performance had to feature characters who are trying to escape from something—and use three impacts from the project to do so (technical methods, visual or performing arts, or project artifacts).
Beginning this fall, the Hilarious Hawks team met once a week, Issler said. For their project, they decided to create soft, fluffy and colorful blankets for kids in the hospital.
A couple of the kids had experienced siblings in the hospital, and they remembered how uncomfortable the bedding was, Issler explained. The Hawks created 30 fleece blankets and gave them to the Children’s Inn at NIH in Bethesda.
“The kids really loved their project,” Issler said. The team could have chosen another challenge, like a technical challenge and worked with drones, but in choosing a service-learning challenge, “they did something that mattered,” she added.
The Hilarious Hawks are headed to the state competition on March 30 at University of Maryland-Baltimore County.
There they’ll face winners from eight regional competitions. Thirteen FCPS teams advanced to states, including Urbana teams The Shining Stars, Green Valley Wizards and Windsor Knolls MS Woah! Teams that advance past states are invited to compete in the Global Finals this May where more than 1,400 teams from more than 45 states and 14 countries will gather in Kansas City, Missouri.
Destination Imagination teams are limited to seven kids, so the hope is to recruit more coaches and enter more UES teams next year, Issler said. The program is volunteer led and relies heavily on the efforts of its coaches.