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  • Staff Photo by Grant Morris

    Ethan McAllister places weights onto a platform that evenly distributes the weight onto a structure that he and his team members from Peter Woodbury School in Bedford, Saturday afternoon during the Destination Imagination Regional Tournament at Alvirne High School in Hudson.
  • Staff Photo by Grant Morris

    Destination Imagination Appraisers, Cindy Warhola, left, and Adam Goodman, right, tally scores for Main Dunstable Elementary School during Saturday afternoon's Destination Imagination Hudson Regional Tournament at Alvirne High School in Hudson.
  • Staff Photo by Grant Morris

    Members of Reeds Ferry School in Merrimack, from left, Casey Habegger, Lauren Anger and Britney Fisher watch as hands throw confetti over a canvas painted to look like fireworks during Saturday's Destination Imagination Hudson Regional Tournament at Alvirne High School.
  • Staff Photo by Grant Morris

    From left, Roisi Russell, Sarah Jacobs, Nitya Upadrasta and Reagan Rick look gather together to look at a sheet of paper before the start of Hold It! in the gym at Alvirne, Saturday morning during the Hudson Regional Tournament for Destination Imagination.
Sunday, March 11, 2012

Destination Imagination teaches problem-solving, teamwork to local students

HUDSON – Eight-year-old Garrett Spuler and the rest of his Charlotte Avenue Elementary team members imagined a toy with a dance floor, one that hooked up to the person using it and imposed its own dancing will.

“It makes you dance … but you might feel a little shock,” Garrett said, to much laughter in the crowd of parents and supporters.

His teammates attached video cables to 7-year-old Anne McIntosh, who shouted, “This is the best toy ever!” and danced like a robot, while her teammates chimed in with background music.

The young students performed their skit at the New Hampshire Destination ImagiNation regional tournament, held at Alvirne High School all day Saturday.

Kids ran through the Hudson hallways in zany costumes, carried large cardboard props up and down the stairs, and performed to classroom audiences all day.

Destination ImagiNation, or “DI” to the students, is a place for creativity, teamwork and problem solving. Groups from elementary, middle and high schools throughout New Hampshire create skits to solve a problem. Parents or other adults manage the teams, but the kids create everything themselves.

The Nashua students from Charlotte Avenue School were asked to imagine a new toy, according to parents Lori McIntosh and Kathy Spuler, who manage the team.

They said Destination ImagiNation builds teamwork and friendships and allows kids to experiment with creativity. The kids work on puzzles and even develop an affinity for problems, more so than things like electronics or video games.

McIntosh has twins on the team – her daughters Anne and Viola, both 7 years old. She said their experience with Destination ImagiNation has prepared them for future classwork and assignments they might have struggled with.

“The learn to work in groups, they learn the skills to listen to each other,” McIntosh said. “In college, they’re looking for that stuff.”

A group of five girls from the Merrimack Academy of Science and Design competed in the “Coming Attractions” division, in which teams were tasked to create a movie trailer for an original story and include an interaction of two different cultures, one special effect and a soundtrack.

The five girls told a love story from Venice, where two men compete for a woman’s love and take her out on the water and to fine restaurants.

The team included three freshmen – Jessica Bonner, Aamuktha Porika and Pooja Welling – as well as sophomore Ally MacDonald and eighth-grader Shaina Gilks. The girls are all friends and had fun creating the skit during stays at each other’s houses.

“The competition is always fun, it’s not like intense,” Porika said.

“We learn teamwork, painting … I even learned how to Indian dance in three weeks,” MacDonald said.

“It’s really fun; it’s a great experience to get involved,” Gilks said. “I love the creativity of DI.”

Even the adults join in the fun, as judges – or “appraisers,” because the goal is to offer praise – wear funny hats that show their own form of creativity. A few notable Saturday hats included a giant orange tennis ball, a bag of popcorn, and Samantha Allen’s black hat with a mason jar fitted on top, with a buzzing electric firefly inside.

“It’s a way for the adults to be creative, too,” she said. “Plus, it’s fun.”

Allen, 27, of Manchester, has been a part of Destination ImagiNation for about 16 years. She participated for seven years as a student and then started volunteering at age 18.

She said the event builds multifaceted skills and gives students something outside the normal classroom experience.

“The kids are immersed in self-confidence,” she said. “They start thinking, ‘I can solve anything that comes my way.’ ”

After each skit, the “appraisers” are then given the difficult task of scoring the group’s creativity on a scale that includes several categories, like the completeness or refinement of an idea.

But the scores aren’t why kids participate, Allen said. Destination ImagiNation shows kids that no matter their interests or their abilities, everyone has something to offer a team.

“You get to know your skills and what you can bring to a team,” Allen said. “As an adult, I know there’s no problem I can’t solve. I use the skills I learned here every day.”

Cameron Kittle can be reached at 594-6523 or