Today’s information age has made it crucial for students to obtain problem solving and critical thinking skills.
Dr. Karin Strohmyer, assistant professor of education/special education at Buena Vista University, recently led a group of students from Storm Lake Middle School (SLMS) in preparation for Destination Imagination — a non-profit organization that provides educational programs for students to learn and experience teamwork, creativity and problem solving.
“Not only do today’s students need to be able to think critically about the information they access, but they also need to be able to use that information to creatively address global issues and respond quickly and carefully to a variety of issues,” says Strohmyer, who has been involved with Destination Imagination for three years and introduced the program to the SLMS after becoming a member of the advisory committee in summer 2011.
Although 15 SLMS students have participated in Destination Imagination training and activities, 10 of those students are involved in Destination Imagination’s internationally competitive program. These students—who were divided into two teams of five—have been prepping to compete in the sub-state and state tournaments. These tournaments give student teams the opportunity to solve open-ended challenges collaboratively and present their solutions to a panel of judges. Next year, SLMS is hoping to expand the program to include up to five competitive teams.
The areas that the SLMS students are competing in this year are science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), as well as service learning. Future jobs in these areas, says Strohmyer, are expected to dominate other fields.
Over the past several months, two BVU students—Peter Winterton and Myriah Noble—have coached the two teams in preparation for the tournaments. Peter and Myriah were chosen as two of the 12 recipients of this year’s Scholars Day Grants at BVU, and have used this money to help fund the two SLMS teams.
“I hope the middle school students develop skills through Destination Imagination that will serve them throughout life,” says Peter, a sophomore English education major from Storm Lake.
“I hope that they learn how to take a problem, break it down until they make sense of it, and take the most practical approach to figuring out how to solve it. These skills will help them be more successful in the long run.”
Peter’s team, “The Ingenious Whirlwinds,” recently took second place at the sub-state tournament on March 17 at the Ames Middle School.
“Our goal is to encourage a stronger sense of teamwork and to get the middle school students to think critically and creatively about problems in the world today and in the future,” says Strohmyer. “Students need to be confident in their own abilities, and programs like this allow them to explore their own strengths as well as how to work as a team and rely on the collective strengths of a group to achieve at higher levels. Ultimately, we hope we can develop self-aware individuals ready to take academic risks to become better students and life-long learners and leaders!”
Both Peter’s and Myriah’s teams performed well at the state competition on April 14 at the Ames Middle School. Peter’s team placed second, while Myriah’s team, “All for Fun and Fun for All,” competed for the first time and took first place. Myriah is a junior elementary education major from Storm Lake.
“BVU students can have a profound impact on the youth in our community,” adds Strohmyer, who also served as a judge at the state competition. “By using the structure of the Destination Imagination program, we can ensure that students not only recognize their own strengths and talents, but they see that BVU students are as invested in their futures as they are.”