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Teams from Mill Creek Elementary School won first-place honors at state competition. The Thrill Ride Team included Dhereen Pammina, front from left, Savannah Barnard, Janvi Jinva, Haleigh Bartee and Medha Akarapu. Sponsor and STEM Teacher Jacqueline Smith, back from left, Violet Silverman and Tyler Barnard. CONTRIBUTED

Mill Creek tops in state with Destination Imagination challenges

MADISON – Creative thinking and quick mental reflexes led to first place in state competition for the Destination Imagination or DI teams from Mill Creek Elementary School.

DI’s state meet was held in Alabaster at the Shelby County Instructional Services Center on March 4. Eight schools entered the contest.

An international program, Destination Imagination or DI involves youth in kindergarten through university-level study in creative problem solving for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics or STEM fields, along with fine arts and service learning.

“Students decided as a team which challenge they were most interested in. They have worked for several months to prepare scripts and props and rehearsed in front of family and friends,” Jacqueline K. Smith said. A National Board Certified Teacher, Smith is Mill Creek’s fifth-grade STEM teacher and Extended Day Director.

Mill Creek’s teams are open to third through fifth grades. The DI team currently has a mix of those grades.

Students solving the Thrill Ride Engineering Challenge were Medha Akarapu, Savannah Barnard, Tyler Barnard, Haleigh Bartee, Janvi Jinva, Dheeren Pammina and Violet Silverman.

Working on Flip the Script for the Fine Arts Challenge were Clara Barnette, Ananya Bhovi, Aubrey Choat, Ella Lynn, Evelyn Mustell and Gabi Stewart.

“Each team selected a DI Challenge,” Smith said. The Thrill Ride Team worked on the Engineering Challenge to design a roller coaster that satisfied requirements. Team members assembled the coaster during their presentation to see the distance and speed that a golf ball would travel along the coaster.

The Flip the Script Team worked on the Fine Arts challenge and created a flipped version of “Beauty and the Beast” that told the story from the viewpoint of Chip the Teacup. Both teams included choice elements in their presentations that showcased their own personal interests and talents such as art, dancing and gymnastics.

Teams competed in the Instant Challenge event with three minutes to solve a challenge and two minutes to present their solution.

“Instant Challenges are designed to teach students to think on their feet by applying appropriate skills to produce a solution (quickly),” Smith said.

“I am so proud of our DI teams! This was a difficult year for getting everyone together for team meetings so the kids created Google docs to keep all the team members up-to-date on the scripts,” Smith said.

“Our kids learned a lot about working together as a team and problem solving,” Smith said. “I loved the creative solutions that each team came up with for their challenge.”

Students applied the creative process, “a step-by-step approach to help students better understand how to solve problems, ask questions and come up with solutions,” Smith said.

“Destination Imagination also teaches students to learn from their failures and celebrate their achievements. Students learn vital life and career skills, such as creative and critical thinking, public speaking and collaborative problem-solving,” she said.

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