Maple Grove Area Teens Score Big at Destination Imagination International Tournament

Local Destination Imagination team goes global.
Local DI team, DIdeas Keep on Comin’, with Chuck Cadle, CEO of Destination Imagination.

A team of Osseo area Eighth and Ninth graders took on the world last spring at the Destination Imagination (DI) Global Finals. DIdeas Keep on Comin’—the team comprised of six students attending Osseo Senior High, Maple Grove Senior High and Osseo Middle School—advanced to the world stage after winning at the state level. The international tournament was held in Knoxville, Tenn. Out of 81 teams competing at the secondary level (more than 1,400 teams overall), DIdeas Keep on Comin’ finished fifth in the central challenge and second in instant challenge.

Destination Imagination is an after school program offered to all students in District 279. Teams of students prepare throughout the school year to compete in two challenges: a central challenge, which can range in scope from fine arts to technical and engineering; and an instant challenge, which is revealed to participants at the competition.

Last year, 40 kids participated on six DI teams at Osseo Middle School. Music teacher Jody Kinneberg served as head coach and has been coaching for the last seven years, along with Joe Vagle, Shannon Sinkel and Maren Knight. It was Kinneberg who matched up members of the winning team two years ago. They shared an interest in the fine arts/theater challenge.

“Each of the kids ends up bringing something special,” Kinneberg says about the team’s dynamic. She attributes their success to effective teamwork. “As they work together more, they start to rely on each other to create something better than they could create alone.”

The team’s central challenge last year was to create an 8-minute murder mystery skit set in a time period before 1990. Guidelines stipulated the inclusion of three suspects and three possible plot endings. Halfway through the skit, a judge randomly selected one of the three suspects to be the murderer by handing an envelope identifying that person to one teammate. That member then had to inconspicuously communicate to the others the direction.

DIdeas Keep on Comin’ placed their skit in the Victorian era with a plot built around finding who was trying to overthrow Queen Victoria at her coronation. The skit included handmade props, most importantly a Victorian-era fireplace, which housed a technical clue that helped solve the mystery. The team’s clue was hidden in the pipes behind their fireplace. There were three pipes, each holding a piece of fabric linked to one of the suspects. After the suspect was selected by the judge, a team member triggered the correlating pipe to release the piece of fabric, thus signaling the correct plot ending.

“That’s one of the things I absolutely love about this program,” Kinneberg says. “It’s all kid-driven.” There’s a very strong requirement of noninterference—if that happens, disqualification can occur. After the team receives its central challenge instructions in October, they are in charge. The kids interpret the challenge, craft their plan and create the storyline, the props and the costumes.

“We all get along really well,” says ninth grader Brynn Moncur. “They are probably some of my best friends.” This will be Moncur’s fourth year in the program. One of the many things she appreciates about DI is the opportunity to be creative.

Creative teamwork is a universal skill, as made evident at Global Finals. With between 14 and 21 countries represented at the tournament, the students appreciated watching other teams compete and enjoyed connecting with students from other areas of the world, even without a shared language.

The tournament also included a pin trade where the teams exchange pins representing their home with other teams. The Minnesota pin featured Northwoods animals like loons, bears, wolves and fish.

But that was last year, and this is a new year. The DI teams anxiously anticipate new sets of challenges. “It’s a really great program,” Moncur says, adding that it has helped her improve her public speaking. When asked what she’s learned, Moncur is quick to respond: “A lot of out-of-the-box thinking. It’s really fun.”