Limitless imagination

Students put creativity to test as they prepare for competition

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Today on radio Destination ImagiNation: Aliens invade earth in a jelly-filled donut.

But first, consider pepper spray as the newest anti-aging remedy.

"Pepper spray, pepper spray -- have a great day, and buy it today," quips 11-year-old Beth Leck. "Now back to aliens versus earth."

Clearly, this is no regular radio broadcast. It's a story that a group of seven elementary school students dreamed up for Destination ImagiNation, a national program that encourages problem-solving skills and creativity.

Leck and her teammates gathered around a microphone Wednesday and, with animated voices and quirky sound effects, rehearsed their project for the regional DI competition April 2 in Rifle.

The team is made up of mostly Hayden Valley Elementary School students and is among four elementary and Hayden Middle School teams that have worked since November preparing for the event.

Each team had to choose a main challenge, which is timed at competition and includes a set of requirements.

In "Live! It's Radio DI," the students must create and tell a story without pictures. The story must have at least one unique character and commercial break that makes an outrageous claim.

Students also incorporate a news bulletin given to them at the competition.

"We brainstormed a lot," 10-year-old Abby Engle said.

"So much our brains were going nuts," 8-year-old Ian Cadenhead joked.

Two Hayden teams chose "Improving Along," for their challenge. They will perform a skit about transportation.

The students have been researching 12 types of transportation and will roll a dice at competition to determine which will be included. They also will make all costumes and props during the skit.

In addition to their main challenge, the students must prepare their quick-thinking skills for an instant challenge at competition. Judges will present the teams with a problem, which may involve building, making up a song or skit, or other elements.

Students have about seven minutes to create their solution and present it to judges.

"It's almost like magic. ... It's phenomenal to see what these seven minds come up with," said Andy Cadenhead, a parent volunteer and team manager.

Team mangers are on hand to help clarify challenges for students and make sure the teams stay on track with their project. Coaches cannot, however, give teams any suggestions.

"Everything about it has to be 100 percent theirs," team manager Medora Fralick said. "It's the only program I know of where everything belongs to them."

Most DI students this year, including 10-year-old Erin Koehler, are returning members.

"You learn how to get along, and you get to be creative and have fun," she said. "It's just something to do."

In the process of learning to cooperate and respect each other's ideas, DI students develop friendships they may not find in a regular school setting, they said.

"We're all different ages," 8-year-old Belle Mazzola explained.

"I came because it's my time to get away from my family because I am home schooled," Abby Engle said.

Teams that do well at the regional competition will compete at the state level April 30 in Denver. Last year, two teams excelled to the state competition and one team competed in the Global Finals in Knoxville, Tenn.

The program's success in Hayden is credited largely to the support of superintendent Mike Luppes and the Hayden School District, which provides space for team practice and helps fund competition expenses, DI coordinator and coach Michelle Hoza, said.

This is the sixth year Hoza has coordinated the program.

"It's amazing to put together a group of kids. ... You see their self -steem grow, their confidence grow, and their abilities to see things differently just expands," she said.

-- To reach Tamera Manzanares, call 871-4204 or e-mail tmanzanares@steamboatpilot.com.

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