Creating a story that can flow no matter where it begins is a difficult task, but one that Destination ImagiNation veteran Hannah Gutman can tell you a thing or two about.
Gutman, a freshman, has been involved with Destination ImagiNation since the third grade and is one of 24 students participating in Destination ImagiNation at James Madison University. The JMU students will compete in the Destination ImagiNation Global Finals May 25-28 at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, where last year's teams earned a first place finish and two second place finishes.
Destination ImagiNation, Inc. is a non-profit organization that provides educational programs for students to learn and experience creativity, teamwork and problem solving. The program reaches 100,000 college, high-school and middle-school students annually across the United States and in more than 30 countries. The DI teams are required to create and perform skits about assigned topics. They also are judged on how well they perform on instant challenges that involve topics they do not learn about in advance.
At JMU, Destination ImagiNation is offered as a three-credit class in the spring. Enrollment is under both ISAT and engineering course numbers, and is open to any major as an elective. In the future, students may also have the option of counting the class as communication studies credits.
In addition to the classwork, Destination ImagiNation students at JMU perform community service by holding instant challenge workshops for local elementary, middle- and high-school teams. They also run practice competitions and provide feedback to the younger competitors. “We help work on those keystones of creativity, problem solving and teamwork,” Gutman said.
The 24 JMU students are split into four teams of up to seven students each. Gutman is part of the scientific and theatrical skills team tackling this year’s “Spinning a Tale” challenge. The challenge involves explaining an energy cycle in the form of a circular story, meaning the team members had to write three acts that could be performed in any order.
The other teams are competing in challenges where the skits involve moving materials to places they are needed in a city that has been decimated by a disaster; telling the same story three different ways for three different audiences; and telling the story about a character that is foiled. That skit also involves building a structure from aluminum foil, wood and glue that can hold heavy weights.
The teams hold fund-raisers to buy materials and to pay the $650 per person it costs to travel to the Global Finals.
Gutman says the experience is worth the time involved. "It makes me feel like I’m part of something, so it’s been really great,” she said.
Sarah Paige Werner joined looking for a way to meet people with similar interests. “In my first month at JMU I was kind of freaking out about the idea of being a transfer,” she said. “I’m a pretty shy person in general and since I wasn’t going to be living in a dorm, I was losing out on that opportunity to meet people.” She was hooked after the first meeting and hopes to continue throughout the rest of her JMU career.