What does a museum, cats, worms and pink-backed turtle have in common?
Nothing — except they all came from the imaginations of 10 students at the Free Horizon Montessori school in Golden for the projects they entered into the regional …
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Nothing — except they all came from the imaginations of 10 students at the Free Horizon Montessori school in Golden for the projects they entered into the regional competition for Destination Imagination.
The competition took place March 11, at Jefferson High School in Edgewater.
“The Destination Imagination experience is incredibly valuable for students on so many levels,” said Susan Vallier, educational assistant at Free Horizon Montessori.
Along with applying educational experiences in the arts and STEM subjects, students share their personal talents and use life skills, such as public speaking and teamwork, in their projects.
The competition included 57 teams consisting of Jeffco students in preschool through high school. Of them, 21 elementary school teams were represented — Free Horizon Montessori’s competition.
The two teams from Free Horizon Montessori were the C.A.T.s, an acronym for Crazy Awesome Team, and the Worms Team. C.A.T.s consisted of second graders Ayden Sidwell and Emmerson Wells, third grader Morgan Thompson, and fourth graders Sierra Nordwald and Hannah Harr. The Worms Team consisted of second graders Gabby Stover, Andrew Johnson-Tooley and Maddie Arboleda; and fourth graders Jadyn Bledsoe-Bergeron and Josephine Otteman.
All 10 of the students who signed up to enter the competition got to compete, Vallier said, who served as the C.A.T.s’ team manager. They split into the two teams based on who would potentially work well together, she added.
Both teams fared well at the regional competition — the C.A.T.s placed second overall and will advance to Destination Imagination’s state competition on April 22 at Auraria Campus. The Worms Team placed seventh overall.
“This was really our learning year,” Vallier said, “but I ended up with a very determined set of girls. They’ve had their eyes on the goal all season.”
Their goal, she added, was to place high enough at the regional competition to make it to the state competition, then advance to the global finals.
“The judges told us what we have to work on,” Harr, 9, said, “so we’re adding that into our performance for state.”
The judges suggested that the girls have more tech affects in their performance, which means they are working on incorporating more engineering concepts for the state competition.
Destination Imagination has two parts to it for the competition — a main challenge and the Instant Challenge. Beginning in September, students prepare for their main challenge by selecting one of seven categories that range from engineering to fine arts. Teams train for the Instant Challenge, but it is kept confidential to eliminate the possibility of any team being influenced by another.
Each team has an adult team manager who helps to keep the team on track, but does not assist or interfere with the team’s project.
“I can guide them, but they have to do all the work themselves,” Vallier said. “I am so proud of the hard work and determination that both teams poured into their challenge solutions.”
Both projects required work after school and on the weekends, she added.
“They spent hours upon creative hours gaining confidence in their teamwork — tweaking scripts, adjusting scenery and practicing their presentations,” Vallier said.
The C.A.T.s competed in the Technical Challenge, called Show and Tech, which prompts students to complete tasks by using engineering, research, strategic planning and other related skills. The team’s project is themed “Under the Sea.” All of the girls helped with the design and build of the stage and prompts, and each of them had a role in the skit.
Harr narrated the performance, while Nordwald played a scuba diver in search of a pink-backed turtle, played by Thompson, and met Sidwell, playing a dolphin, and Wells, playing a fish, along the way.
At first, the girls had some issues with their teamwork, but once they were able to come to consensus, things got a little easier, they said.
“When you can show good teamwork, you get a better score,” Sidwell, 8, said.
While Wells, 8, Thompson, 9, said their favorite part was performing certain parts of the skit — popping out of a treasure chest and the “Under the Sea” dance party — Nordwald enjoyed the design and build process the most, she said.
But all the girls agreed the whole thing is an awesome experience, they said.
The Worms Team competed in the Scientific Challenge, called Top Secret. The project was called “Mystery at the Museum” and included decoding a secret message during the performance.
“It was great to watch them learn and grow as a team,” said Leslie Arboleda, a parent who served as the Worms Team manager. “I’m already looking forward to next year’s Destination Imagination competition.”
Free Horizon Montessori hasn’t had a team enter the Destination Imagination competition since the 2014-15 school year, and although the school had a team place third in 2014, the C.A.T.s team is only the second in the school’s history to make it to the state competition. The first time was in 2012.
“We are very excited to have Destination Imagination back in our school after a hiatus,” said Kresta Vuolo, the school’s principal. “To have two successful teams shows the commitment that Free Horizon Montessori students have to challenge themselves.”
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