The week before Memorial Day, John and I volunteered as Appraisers at Destination ImagiNation® Global Finals, held at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. We scored teams from around the world for creativity, teamwork and problem-solving. This is the fifth consecutive year my husband and I have participated at the global level of this non-profit creative problem-solving program. It was just as amazing an experience this year as it was in previous years.

Each day of competition, we boarded a bus at 7:00 a.m. and proceeded to the Humanities Building, where Appraiser teams scored student teams roughly every 20 minutes, ending the work day between 5:00 and 6:30 p.m. Over the course of three days, 1,031 elementary, middle school, high school and university teams demonstrated their thinking-on-their-feet skills. It was exhausting and exhilarating all at once. As a mother does following childbirth, we will forget by this time next year how much our feet hurt and how little sleep we got, just so we can do it all over again.

My Appraisal team was typical of others evaluating Instant Challenge, or on-the-spot problem-solving. It consisted of Matt Elder from Wisconsin, Lee Strickland from California, Magdalena Borrero from Columbia and myself (from Iowa). A translator was added to each Appraisal team for all international teams. Each Appraiser team consisted of a Head Appraiser and two other scoring Appraisers, plus a Timekeeper who also served as a Team Escort. The day before teams competed, all Appraisers went through the Instant Challenges themselves, making sure they could actually be solved in more than one way, smoothing out kinks and setting up their rooms for competition. Elementary teams solving Challenge A were in one room, while other levels of teams solving Challenges A through E and projectOUTREACH® were in other rooms. Teams were moved from Outside Holding to Inside Holding, and from these areas to Instant Challenge, the Chill Out Room and the Ta-Da! stage. The focus from start to finish was on the teams, and on their solutions. No adult interference is allowed in the Destination ImagiNation program.

While the video below shares some of the excitement felt by Destination ImagiNation Global Finals participants, in reality the trophies are far less important than the learning that takes place all school year, when students are working through their Team Challenge to generate a unique solution. On September 1st each year, six competitive Challenges are released, each with a different academic focus: technical/construction, scientific, fine arts, improvisation, structure, and service learning. Teams of 2 to 7 students generate unique solutions to the Challenge they select and incorporate that solution into a skit that is performed at a local or Regional Tournament. The best teams advance to the next level, performing at state or Affiliate Tournaments. The best teams in the world are found every year at Global Finals. However, it is during the process of generating ideas and focusing on solutions that students learn about teamwork, risk-taking, planning, budgeting, problem-solving and more—life skills they can take with them into the future and which their employers will value when these young people enter the job market. In the end, it’s all about the process. To learn more about Destination ImagiNation, visit

© 2010 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

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4 thoughts on “It’s all about the process”

  1. wow! what an experience! It must be fascinating to see what different people come up with. And if foreign (non-US) competitors have different approaches than US people! {:-Deb

  2. DI is awesome! Going to globals twice with my kids was amazing – it was like going to a week-long rock concert. We probably bumped into each other there and didn’t even know it.
    Thanks for stopping by my blog!

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