Brainpower propels South Whidbey team to state tournament

South Whidbey Elementary’s Destination ImagiNation team, all members of Pam Muncey’s fifth-grade class, includes (from left) Laurie Roslie, Elizabeth Donnelly, Taylor Dance, Ari Rohan, Aengus Dubendorf and Alex Low. - Roy Jacobson / The Record
South Whidbey Elementary’s Destination ImagiNation team, all members of Pam Muncey’s fifth-grade class, includes (from left) Laurie Roslie, Elizabeth Donnelly, Taylor Dance, Ari Rohan, Aengus Dubendorf and Alex Low.
— image credit: Roy Jacobson / The Record

So there’s this spider and fly, arguing about who stole whose snowball.

Then this queen bee comes in, all crown-like, and tries to settle the beef.

Then somebody recites a couple of poems, one of which they wrote themselves.

Then this “structure” thing is carried in and it gets crushed on purpose.

Finally, everybody shows off their costumes and jumps around and cheers.

The end.

Or is it?

The six members of South Whidbey Elementary School’s Destination ImagiNation team hope their performance will propel them into the competition’s national finals later in the year, with a chance to win a lot of money.

“We’d get $10,000 to split,” said team member Aengus Dubendorf, 11.

“And a gift certificate,” said fellow team member Taylor Dance, 10.

The team was already good enough to place second at the regional competition earlier this month at Lake Stevens, and to earn enough points to move on to this week’s state finals in Wenatchee on Saturday.

“We had the most popular challenge out of all of them,” said team member Elizabeth Donnelly, 11.

“We’re going to win,” predicted Aengus. “We’ll at least come in the top five.”

“Or the top one,” added Taylor.

Destination ImagiNation is a worldwide nonprofit organization devoted to student creativity, teamwork and problem solving.

Based in New Jersey, the organization, launched in 1999, now has 100,000 students in more than 30 countries competing at annual tournaments.

Student teams solve open-ended challenges, learning to think on their feet, work together and devise original solutions. The goal is for students to unleash their imaginations and find unique approaches to problems.

The South Whidbey team is made up of members of Pam Muncey’s fifth-grade class. Besides Aengus, Taylor and Elizabeth, it includes Laurie Roslie, Alex Low and Ari Rohan, all 10.

“It’s a great opportunity for kids to do some creative thinking,” Muncey said. “And these are very creative thinkers.”

The team was put together by Heather Dubendorf, Aengus’ mother, and another parent, Julie Buktenica, whose son is Alex.

Dubendorf said the team has been practicing once a week for the past several months to hone its competitive skills.

“It’s all based on what the kids come up with without parent input,” she said. “It’s really fun to see that.”

The challenge the team chose is “Verses, Foiled Again,” in which members have eight minutes to present a skit and to recite two poems, one of which they wrote themselves. They chose Shel Silverstein’s

“I Made Myself a Snowball.” Their own poem is about how the fly didn’t steal it.

The skit, complete with costumes, must also include someone or something foiled, and must incorporate a structure team members built themselves on which weights are piled until it collapses.

The structure must be made only of wood, aluminum foil and glue, and can weigh no more than 25 grams and be no more than 7.5 inches tall. The more weight it can hold, the more points the team earns.

In the regional final, the team’s structure handled 241 pounds before it collapsed, far more than the 60 pounds the team had tested on it before the competition, Dubendorf said.

“They’d never put that much weight on it,” she said. “It never got crushed, and they didn’t know how to end their skit.”

In addition to the main event, the team also has to figure out instant challenges during the competition. For example, they may be given five minutes to build something, Dubendorf said.

“They’re top secret,” Taylor said. “You get disqualified if you tell about it.”

Dubendorf said the South Whidbey School District has a history of encouraging learning through competitions such as Destination ImagiNation. She said a team from Langley Middle School also earned honors at a recent state tournament.

“They have to learn to rely on each other, and it doesn’t happen right away,” Dubendorf said. “The most exciting thing is to see the creativity come out.”

Laurie, meanwhile, is pretty pumped.

“It’s awesome,” she said. “We get to do some really cool things.”



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