PELHAM — Forty-six Pelham Elementary School students, grouped into seven teams, will head to Nashua High School South on March 18 to compete against dozens of other teams in the annual regional Destination ImagiNation Creativity Tournament.
More than 300 teams will meet across the state to present their innovative solutions to one of five mind-bending challenges they chose three months ago.
Facing such a huge challenge, they needed a dress rehearsal. So on March 13, the teams put on a show for their parents and friends in the school’s gymnasium to test out their solutions, invite feedback and work out any last minute kinks.
Holly Kathios took the stage and introduced her team, the “Pelham Elementary School Warriors,” but her hands did most of the talking as she used sign language to convey her message.
The other members of her group — Craig Harden, Alyssa Pantaleo, Michael Anderson and Darian Rideout — then introduced themselves by signing their names.
The challenge chosen by the group was “Back at You!” They were commissioned to create a roundtrip delivery device and receiver that repeatedly sends balls back and forth. They then have to integrate the process of sending and returning the balls into a story about someone or something that has gone away and comes back.
The team’s device was not completely finished in time for the dress rehearsal, but they are confident about the competition.
“We’re ready for Saturday,” declared Kathios, a third-grader, who has studied sign language for two years.
It was her idea to incorporate the sign language into their presentation, even though it was not a requirement.
“I thought it might earn us a couple of extra points,” she said.
Destination ImagiNation is the world’s largest creative problem-solving organization, with more than 250,000 participants in 24 countries and all 50 states.
It is the most popular extracurricular activity in New Hampshire, with 2,700 students from kindergarten to college level competing every year.
This year PES has put together three teams in the Rising Stars category, which is for students in grades K-2. These kids compete purely for the fun of it. Their presentations are not judged, but they are given some gentle criticism to better prepare them for future competitions.
All teams in the Rising Stars category must produce a play with a number in it that includes a prop with an opening. One team member must go through the opening and change during the course of the play. There must also be a prop constructed of newspaper and tape.
The school’s remaining four teams, comprised of students in grades 3-5, will be out for blood on Saturday. They have worked very hard over the past three months and are ready to give it their all.
Each team is coached by an adult, but all of the ideas and work must come entirely from the students with no interference from their coach, parents or other kids not on their team.
The “Wild Tigers” chose what is perhaps the most difficult of the five available challenges. Titled “On Safari,” this is a challenge of improvisation.
They must create a six-minute improvisational skit about a safari in a 30-minute timed period at the tournament. At the competition the team will be told which of the six environments and living inhabitants have been chosen to appear in their skit. They must also create an original innovative device to use in the skit, demonstrate one improv technique, integrate a randomly selected disaster, establish a goal of the safari and integrate a randomly selected symbol.
At the dress rehearsal the group masterfully threw together a skit about an island during which a dolphin was rescued by a bulldozer during an avalanche. Additionally, a bird was pelted by rocks, put into a cage and turned into an eagle, only to be brought home and cooked for dinner.
“The best part was the last part; we totally made that up. It wasn’t planned until it happened,” said team member Lauryn Beauregard.
The team’s coach, Kevin Steele, was blown away by the performance.
“They did a fantastic job,” he said. “I couldn’t believe that they chose this challenge; the instructions are like 12 pages long and it is the same as what the high school and college kids do.”
Principal Alicia LaFrance showed-off the T-shirts all of the PES students who are participating in the competition will receive.
The shirts display an appropriate quote from Thomas Edison: “To invent you need a good imagination and a pile of junk.”
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