Seven Comox Valley secondary students represented all of Canada at the Beijing Invitational Tournament for Destination Imagination and they placed second of 40 teams from around the world.
Team SDI71 was made up Grade 10 and 12 students from Mark R. Isfeld Secondary School, and they flew to China earlier this month to compete in the National Geographic Extreme DI Challenge. The tournament was by invitation, and was designed to showcase the world’s best DI teams, and promote DI in China.
Comox Valley School District superintendent Sherry Elwood attended the tournament and told the Board of Education last week the Comox Valley team was spectacular.
“You would have been proud to be a Comox Valley citizen. You would have been proud to be a Canadian because they were just rock stars,” Elwood said enthusiastically. “There were the best ambassadors for Canada you could ever imagine.”
Isfeld students Hannah Arthurs, Matthew Black, Kristen Bystrom, Jacob Fussell, Ethan Glenwright, Samm Merrick and Brendan Russell made up the Comox Valley team. All students had placed in the top 10 at the DI Global Finals at least twice before, which are held each year in Knoxville, Tenn.
DI is a program which teaches critical thinking, creative thinking, innovation, collaboration and communication; participants work as a team to complete challenges incorporating various skills, such as theatre, math and science.
The Comox Valley team had 24 hours to design a remote camera system, which would be able capture how a rare clouded leopard behaves when humans are not present. One teammate dressed up as a clouded leopard for their presentation to the judges, according to Grade 12 student Arthurs, who said this was a new kind of challenge to the seasoned DI competitors.
“It was something that we’ve never done before; we’ve all done DI but getting a challenge in one day was something completely crazy,” she explained. “But, as it went on and as our teamwork started to work, it really started coming together and we felt pretty confident about it in the end.”
Chinese officials were impressed, calling the Comox Valley team a benchmark at the competition. They placed second — behind a team from Virginia with 13 years of experience, and ahead of a team from Poland — though all three teams were very close in points.
But, before the students arrived in Beijing for the tournament, they visited a school in Shanghai to teach their DI skills to Chinese students. They stayed at the Maple Leaf School of Shanghai for a few days and led DI workshops to pass their knowledge on to the students there.
Black, who is in Grade 10, said teaching the Chinese students about DI was a highlight of the trip.
“That was very, very exciting,” said Black. “I found them very respectful, very ready to go and I was very honoured to be able to teach DI to them, and to be able to teach basically what we learned for the past three years or so onto these Chinese students.”
The students left the Comox Valley on Dec. 1 and returned Dec. 9. Black said the experience is one he’ll never forget.
“It was quite an experience to see the different culture,” he said. “On the DI side, it was amazing the see the amount of teams and to basically help start up DI in China — that’s what I found really important.”