The Destination Imagination season is just around the corner in Andover.
DI, as it's known, is a creative, problem-solving organization and series of competitions that attracts hundreds of Andover students annually.
DI has been an active nonprofit group in Andover for about 20 years, but a surge of interest in Destination Imagination sparked the birth of a non-profit in 2011 dedicated to Destination Imagination in Andover, called Challenge Me, Inc.
"Andover has the largest single-town membership that we know of in the entire world," said Stephanie Maze-Hsu, town coordinator for Challenge Me, Inc. "We are hoping to get even more students involved this year and provide more support and training for managers. We want to encourage even more volunteers into the organization. We're just so excited to bring this program to Andover and be so well-received by families and children."
Destination Imagination itself is a non-profit, volunteer run organization that strives to "inspire and equip students to become the next generation of innovators and leaders" according to their website. The non-profit offers seven challenges for K-12 students in STEM, Improv, Visual Arts, Service Learning, and Early Learning.
Teams choose one of these challenges and attend a competition at the local level. The highest scoring teams then advance to compete at the state or country final, and then at the Global finals.
This past March, more than 43 Andover teams competed in the regional DI tournament. During the 2016-2017 school year about 250 students participated in DI from Andover. Students use their knowledge in science, technology, engineering, the arts, and mathematics to approach problems. They also are encouraged to use their imaginations.
"It's just mind-boggling having a middle school student come up to me and say they were learning how to program and make robots move, and getting so excited about it," Maze-Hsu said.
Students are taught the skills they need, like sewing for example, but come up with the solutions entirely on their own, like creating a costume for a skit they created.
"Students become very passionate about what they can do and feel good about it," added Maze-Hsu. "Last year we had an all kindergarten class and they were so cute and so proud that they did it all themselves. They dictated a skit, learned it, and performed it in front of an audience."
The first meeting for this year's teams is being held on Oct. 3 at 7 p.m. at the Doherty Middle School. Interested parents and students can also seek out more information at www.challengemeinc.org or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Follow Kelsey Bode on Twitter @Kelsey_Bode