Submitted by Gerald Fussell
Mark Isfeld Secondary
Two Comox Valley teams were among the three B.C. squads in Beijing to compete in the Destination Imagination Extreme Challenge event, in early December.
Destination Imagination is a non-profit organization dedicated to developing the skills and attributes of teamwork, problem-solving, creativity and critical thinking in young people around the world. It draws from the very young all the way up to university level competition. The three teams from B.C. were all secondary level competitors, representing Canada in this prestigious event. Students from Mark R. Isfeld Secondary, Highland Secondary and Ecole au Coeur de I’Ile comprised the two Valley entries. For these two teams, the story begins much earlier.
Months of training
These 14-to-18-year-old students have been preparing and delivering workshops to local elementary schools on the elements of Destination Imagination. These presentations have been well received by those younger students in our community who have taken part in them.
Throughout the fall, the students also worked with students attending the Maple Leaf School in Shanghai to prepare workshops on elements of Destination Imagination that help teams to be successful: skills such as critical thinking, creative thinking, project management, technical innovation, and more.
On Dec. 1, these student ambassadors, with their Chinese partners, provided the one-hour workshops for students from five different schools in the Shanghai area. Despite working with a secondary school audience, and with language and cultural barriers to contend with, our students provided well-structured and polished workshops to six different Chinese groups on a rotation. The feedback was uniformly positive, with the overall sentiment being a sense of awe over how mature and poised our students are in running a workshop, and many Chinese students couldn’t believe they were being addressed by such accomplished students no older than themselves. Maple Leaf teachers also viewed the workshops and were impressed by the command of the room our students were able to maintain. One said, “They looked like first year teachers up there.”
At Beijing, we saw the competitive nature in these students come out, and they became all business. The Extreme Challenge is run by Destination Imagination and sponsored this year by Disney.
Thirty-nine teams from all over the world competed in this event, which calls for teams to learn the challenge on one day and present their solution to that challenge 24 hours later. Watching these students work together was powerful, their synergy always in evidence. With remarkable speed they broke down the challenge into manageable elements, and then tackled each element in turn. By that evening, both of the Comox Valley teams were rehearsing and tweaking their solution, and then they got a good night’s rest, because they had to perform first thing the following day.
The two Comox Valley teams came on right after a team from Qatar. The performances were excellent. The following day, at the closing ceremony, our teams finished third and fourth in the world, with less than half a percentage point between them. The team from Vancouver finished first, so Canada took three of the top four spots in this international competition!