Students tune up imaginations

Ryan Fralick said she was bossy and had a hard time working with others before she got involved in the Hayden School District's Destination Imagination program.

The fifth-grader's teammates and her mother agreed. When asked why she joined the program, Ryan said, "To learn how to be nicer to people and not be so demanding."

The DI program combines problem solving, creative thinking and teamwork by focusing the students on a challenge to overcome throughout a long period of time. The students have been working together for months.

This year, teams from the elementary, middle and high school have been practicing for the Western Slope Regional Competition on Saturday in Rifle. If teams do well, they will be invited to the state competition in Denver. The teams presented solutions to their challenges in the form of skits Tuesday at Hayden Elementary School.

"This is kind of like a dress rehearsal for them," Hayden DI coordinator Michelle Hoza said. "We like to do it in front of an audience before the competition."

Each team chose a different challenge to work on for the competition. The elementary team had to learn about the rules of motion and create a skit that explored what would happen if they changed the rules.

All of the challenges were presented in the context of a story the children came up with. The elaborate and creative skit this team chose to perform involved a "cotton candy" princess who is hit by a ball but falls forward instead of backward.

The seventh-grade team chose a slightly more technical challenge that involved building a device that launched tennis balls that are caught by another device and automatically returned to the launching device.

The nontraditional activity and has a high level of educational and social learning value, parents said.

"(The students) come out of their shell," said Andy Cadenhead, who coaches his son's team with Medora Fralick. "They're going out of their way to hang out with kids they wouldn't normally play with."

Coming out of her shell was exactly what happened to soft-spoken fifth-grader Mikaela Casias, who moved to Hayden from Denver last year.

"I've been a lot louder," Mikaela said. "I've made more friends than I did in Denver because I'm less shy."

Fourth-grader Ian Caden--head said becoming part of a team was his biggest challenge. "Sometimes, I like to do things my way," Ian said.

"How to lead without bullying and thinking outside the box are things that will serve them through their whole lives," Fralick said. "That kind of thinking is just not taught."

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