A child's imagination is an amazing thing.
Six students from Stuard Elementary School are proof. Working together, their Destination Imagination team finished eighth in the state at the recent competition held at the University of Texas at Arlington.
The team of Elliott Skinner, Garrett Condon, Sophia Stamper, Campbell Hutcheson, Oliver Wight, and Aiden Gibbins — all age 10, except for Stamper and all in fourth grade except for Condon (fifth) — competed in the technical challenge category. They qualified for state by winning the Fort Worth Region championship at Midlothian High School.
"My husband Eric and I did this together at Weatherford High School. We went to Globals (the highest level of competition) my senior year (2003) and came in fifth," said Stephanie Skinner, Elliott's mother and the team sponsor/coach.
The competition asked them to create a skit and a puzzle containing at least six pieces. The puzzle had to be integrated into their story, and they also had to create two puzzle solvers that used technical methods to solve the puzzle.
They were awarded points for creativity, technical innovation, and teamwork.
The team wrote a story about two people traveling into the Amazon Rain Forest. One person was bitten by a Brazilian Wandering Spider, the world's most venomous. In order to create the anti-venom needed to cure the bite, they had to travel through the jungle to find six ingredients (the puzzle pieces).
"They were one of very few teams that successfully completed their puzzle," Stephanie said. "They chose a very technical challenge, but we have some very technical people. Everyone had different ideas, which gave us a lot of options."
The team was named The Mighty Bananas. Why?
"I like bananas," Oliver said with a chuckle.
To prepare for the competition, the team practiced and prepared for several months. The team was picked in August and they began work in September.
"I liked seeing all the progress we made. It was awesome," Elliott said. "Being creative is a good way to go."— which had a time limit of eight minutes -—began, the students were completely on their own. Any help remembering their lines, etc. was up to them to work through together.
Fortunately, things went smoothly for the Bananas.
"I had the most amount of lines. I played the daughter," Campbell said. "I liked it. People are watching and staring and it gives you more bravery. Now I can say 'I did that!'"
Stephanie added, "There were a lot of lessons learned, like projecting. I don't think any of them had performed before. But they did fantastic. I'm so proud of them."
Garrett said his favorite part of the competition was memorizing the skit. "It was also a lot of fun putting all the stuff on, like the makeup. I was a shaman."
"We're talking about re-using refrigerator boxes. One of their pieces was made out of an old pole," Stephanie said.
"I like the feeling of joy and trustfulness," Sophia said.
To which Aiden added as a description of teamwork, "I respectfully disagree with your idea, can you please try my idea?"
Campbell said the teamwork provided a major lesson for her.
"I'm used to doing a lot of things by myself," she said. "I learned to be more flexible."
Perhaps the best part was the fun the students had.
"When we went to the awards ceremony (in Midlothian) it was glow in the dark in the auditorium and we got to play with beach balls," Campbell said.
"We got to trade pins with other teams and that was really cool," Oliver added.
Each year the different regions have new pins created that the students exchange.
"I had a blast just seeing their progress from the beginning," Stephanie said. "Also, seeing my own kid grow into someone more confident was special. They're more cohesive now. I've coached other kids' teams, but it's great to coach my own kid's team."
Her younger son, 8-year-old Sam, will be on a competitive team next year, she said.
"There's a long journey that starts with brainstorming. Initially, you come up with something and then you make it happen," Stephanie said. "There were some growing pains, but it was all such a wonderful and fun experience."
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