November 3, 2012

Destination Imagination

The week we moved to Newton, Lilah was walking into her new preschool with a little boy wearing exactly the same Land’s End red coat that Lilah had inherited in several sizes from her brothers. “Look,” I said. “You two are wearing the same coat.” The child’s dad introduced himself as M, and we soon discovered we each had three children of the same ages.

That’s how I made my first friend in this new place.

There are many lovely things about this friendship. M and I click. Our families are friends, the kids play well together, and we’re very comfortable handing off our children to one another. They’re kind of our village.

What I didn’t count on was DI.

M, you see, runs the area Destination Imagination, DI to those in the know. He’s been doing DI since he was a kid, first as a participant and then as a team manager. He’s completely passionate and enthusiastic and devoted to DI for his kids and all the other people’s kids, too. For those of you who – like me until last February – haven’t heard of DI, it’s a team problem-solving activity. M calls it “sports for the mind.” The kids form a team and spend months researching and solving a challenge, then compete in a tournament. Adults have to keep their hands the hell off the solutions and let the kids figure it out.

He had me at “hello.”

I went to the organizational meeting, where I think he slipped me a cup of that Kool-Aid, because suddenly I found myself drinking it, too. I volunteered to be a team manager for Benjamin’s team, knowing that Zach and I would butt heads if I were trying to manage his team. I’m not sure if that makes me a sucker or a good mom, or maybe it just means M is very convincing.

This morning I found myself faced with a group of five boys – grades K to 2 – at 8 AM. I had begged Ben’s teacher from last year for some ice-breaking activities, so I was armed with pages of activities she had photocopied for me. It’s frightening knowing you have to interest five small children for over an hour. My co-manager was in charge of snacks and other logistics, but I was in charge of today’s activities. I’m delighted to report that I did not fall on my face.

More to the point, the kids are going to make a great team. These are smart, engaged kids, still with the light of excitement that has not yet been sapped by too many hours in front of video games or worksheets. It’s fascinating to see them figure out their roles and one another’s personalities, which I’m going to get to watch and help facilitate over the next five months. Once a week. I need to plan a session a week for the next five months.

I think I may need more photocopies.

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  • Reply magpie November 4, 2012 at 12:08 am

    really, that sounds so cool.

  • Reply Brigid November 4, 2012 at 12:24 am

    Hahahahahaha. I just posted something eerily similar as I am now the co-manager of a team of seven third graders. Kool-aid all around! Cheers.

  • Reply alejna November 4, 2012 at 3:20 am

    I may need to track down this Kool-aid in my area. (Actually, I’ve found that it exists in a neighboring town. But how can I fit one more thing into the schedule? Sigh.)

    It really does sound great, though.

  • Reply Heather November 4, 2012 at 12:43 pm

    I’ve met only a few DI kids that I don’t like. It’s one of the first questions I ask my older kids about new friends. What sports? DI? My youngest two are on a rising stars team and for the first time I’ll get to be involved.

  • Reply Lilian Nattel November 4, 2012 at 4:08 pm

    I’ve never heard of DI. I’ll be interested to read how it goes!

  • Reply Jennifer November 6, 2012 at 1:26 am

    If I had different children, I’d be so interested in this! But communication in a team is my son’s #1 difficulty. It’s just painful for him. The level of intrapersonal communication required of him in school is about all he can stand. What I’d like is some 1:1 time — child-to-knowledgeable person – on any of the topics that interest him…

    Actually what I really want, I suppose, is to have been on a team like you describe when I was a kid!

  • Reply Marleigh (Phillips) Brown January 3, 2013 at 5:53 pm

    Emily!! What a small world!! I was just surfing the internet prepping for *my* DI meeting today and came across your blog. I hope you and the kids are enjoying it!! Maybe we’ll cross paths at one of the tournaments. You must be Rising Stars?? My team is a group (6) fourth graders. Their second year in….fingers crossed it continues to be fun for everyone (myself included). Happy New Year!! (and back to my web surfing!!)

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