Students challenged to tackle unique projects

Perry Bergson
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Sask. Rivers School Division practical applied arts and career consultant Brian Linn and some young students watch closely to see how their recently made contraption filled with ping pong balls will be blown by a fan. It was part of the Destination Imagination event held at PACI on Friday.

The imagination is a powerful thing for young students, something an innovative educational program is looking to capitalize on.

Brian Linn, the Sask. Rivers School Division practical applied arts and career consultant, hosted Destination Imagination events on Thursday and Friday in Prince Albert.

“It’s not so much, ‘Here memorize these facts,’” Linn says. “It’s more solve this problem and work together while you do it.”

Destination Imagination is an American concept that began in 1999. It challenges students to use their imagination and innovation skills to tackle different projects provided by organizers.

The event drew nearly 100 Grade 5-6 students to Prince Albert Collegiate Institute from other schools around the city, including Westview, Riverside, Vickers, King George and Arthur Pechey.

On Thursday, about 90 students attended a similar event at Wesmor Community High School.

Destination Imagination was opened up on a first-come, first-served basis, quickly filling up with interested local pupils.

In the morning, the students had a presentation, were divided into teams, given props and had to create a television newscast.

Next, they had to design an art gallery for the city with the supplies they were given and then explain to the judge why their creation was a smart idea.

The final challenge in the afternoon saw the students create a contraption filled with ping pong balls to see how far it would be blown by a fan.

It’s the second year in Prince Albert for Destination Imagination.

Linn says it’s a different way of teaching with the expectation of a very different result.

“The hope is that we emphasize a lot of the learning that isn’t always front and centre in the curriculum,” he says. “If you’re talking math, English, science, it’s very content-based. Whether we’re talking employability skills or just good citizen skills of being able to work collaboratively and being able to communicate with each other, those are the things that are extremely valuable.”

He notes that teachers also learn.

“It’s not sitting at a desk, we can be active, we can let them build we can let them learn and have some successes and have some failures, all in a fun atmosphere.”

While some provinces -- notably B.C., Ontario and Quebec -- have been quick to embrace the concept, there are just two divisions in Saskatchewan challenging their students in this way.

It’s different in the United States.

“It’s a huge thing,” Linn said, noting that American schools compete in their division and state in an attempt to go to a national final.

Linn says that scores were marked for every event on Thursday and Friday but it was something else that inspired him.

“We can look it up and tell you what team scored the highest but not one teacher or kid at the end of the day really was asking about that,” he said. “They were asking ‘How can we make this better.’ What can we change to make this challenge better, to perform better. It was not ‘Hey what mark did I get?’ and this is how I’m valued. It was how can we make this better?

“It’s not winning or losing. It’s a feel-good kind of thing.”


Organizations: Rivers School Division, Prince Albert Collegiate Institute, Wesmor Community High School

Geographic location: Saskatchewan, Prince Albert, Westview Prince Albert for Destination Imagination Ontario Quebec United States

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