Forming a DI team can seem like a daunting task. Perhaps your son or daughter wants to do DI and you are going to be the Team Manager and are wondering how to fill out the team. Perhaps you have a group of kids at your school that want to DI and you have to figure out who to put on which teams. Keep reading for some ideas and suggestions of things to look for when forming a Destination ImagiNation team.
A DI team can have up to 7 team members. Only the original team members are allowed to work on the team challenge solution. You may have fewer than 7 members on your team but you must have at least two members. Once your team has started working on the Team Challenge solution you may add team members up to the maximum until you register on the Wisconsin DI website (registration deadline is in January) for your first tournament. You may not replace a team member after you have reached 7 team members. If a team member quits, moves away, etc they are still part of the team as they have contributed to the solution in some way. Team members may not be added between tournaments. This information and more is outlined on page 9 of the Rules of the Road found in your Program Materials.
Anytime you throw a group of kids together they need to learn to become a ‘team’- they don’t just start that way no matter how perfect a balance or mix you feel you have. This is part of the DI process and may take all season. Getting the kids to trust each other, listen to each other, figure out what each other can bring to the table and how to work together is going to take some time and as a Team Manager you play an integral part in helping to facilitate this process (we’re not going to talk about this here, but teambuilding is definitely something that I will be talking about in the future so check back).
The process for forming a team may be different depending on where you are. No matter how things are handled, you need to get some information about the kids to help you make your decisions about who is going to be on each team. Different ways to gather this information may include:
- Having the kids fill out some sort of questionnaire listing their skills, interests, etc.
- Speaking to teachers who work with the kids to learn more about them
- Hosting an informational night for kids and their parents where you interact with the kids and have them do some performances, Instant Challenges, etc. to see what they like/are good at
- Tryouts- some schools and programs may hold tryouts to decided which kids will be on which teams and in fact which kids may even be allowed to do DI (some schools have a limited number of spots based on how many team paks a school chooses to purchase).
Once you gather some information about the kids, there is no magic formula and it will take work to bring your team together, but there are some things to think about when forming your teams:
- Age of the kids
- Gender Balance
- Skill sets/interests of the kids
- Challenge Preference
1. Age of the Kids
Destination Imagination is broken down into competitive and noncompetitive teams. There are four competitive levels within the DI program (the Rising Stars level being noncompetitive) designed to ensure that participants compete against their peers. See below the chart from page 10 of the Rules of the Road which outlines the parameters for each of the competition levels:
Your team may have team members of all ages, but the Level at which you must compete will be determined by the participant in the highest grade-level or by the participant who is oldest. Combing participants from multiple competitive levels is not recommended and oftentimes combining kids of different ages even within the same competitive level can lead to problems.
For example, the elementary level is comprised of kids ranging from kindergarten through 5th grade but would you want to put 2nd graders and 5th graders on the same team? 2nd graders have a much different maturity level than 5th graders and you may very well find that the 2nd graders are frustrating the 5th graders because the 5th graders feel the 2nd graders cannot contribute in the same way that the 5th graders are. On the flip side the 2nd graders might become frustrated because they feel that the 5th graders are not letting them do anything.
An age gap that is too great will most likely cause great frustration for you and your team members throughout the year and my advice is to form teams with kids as close together in age as you can.
2. Gender Balance
Having a balance of males and females on a team can be a very good thing. Boys and Girls think about things differently and oftentimes have different skill sets to pull from.
You may also decide that you want to have all girls or all boys on a team. This can be very good or very bad depending on the kids. If you have a team full of elementary boys who are crazy energetic you may wish for a few girls on the team to balance things out. On the flip side if you have a middle school team of girls who are constantly fighting with one another you may wish you had a few boys in the mix to balance out the drama.
Like any situation this greatly depends on the kids at hand and you may or may not have a choice in the matter. If you do have a choice however, you may want to avoid putting a solo boy or a solo girl on a team as they may feel left out of as if the rest of them are ganging up on them in team decisions etc.
3. Skill Sets/Interest of the Kids
On every DI team no matter which challenge you are solving there are certain skills that will help a team in solving a DI team challenge. This is not an all-encompassing list by any means nor should you think that you need ALL of these things on your team. Many of these skills can be taught and are things that the kids will gain through their experience with DI. Some skills or traits to look for no matter what the challenge include:
- Teamwork- ability to work well with others
- Leadership/Project management skills
- Script writing
- Performance skills
- Ability to use tools/building to help with props and sets
- Interest in Costuming/someone who knows how to sew/make things
- Artistic skills (painting, drawing, etc).
If you know which challenge you are a Team Manager for you may additionally want to consider some high level skill sets/requirements for each of this years' Challenges (in next week’s post I will talk about choosing a challenge and I will speak in more detail about each of the challenges):
Challenge A Technical:
- Building things such as robots, cars, etc.
- Knowledge/interest in manufacturing and assembling things
Challenge B: Scientific
- Knowledge/interested in science/physics (particularly light and solar energy)
- Theater experience particularly lighting design
Challenge C: Theatrical
- A theater/performance background
- Musical/Composition abilities
- Interest in other cultures/countries
Challenge D: Improvisational
- Strong performance skills
- Spontaneous kids who can make things up on the fly
- Interest in news/current events
Challenge E: Structural
- Building knowledge/ interest in models, construction, bridges, etc.
- Technical interest/knowledge
- Passion for service learning and community outreach
- Interest in Marketing and presenting
4. Challenge Preference:
Something that should ALWAYS be considered is what do the kids want to do? What team do they want to be on?
If you have a child who loves to build things and is incredibly shy and you put them on an Improv team rather than on a Structure team like they wanted you may not have a very happy child.
Likewise if you have a child who wants to be on a team with his/her friends and you put them on a team with kids they do not know or do not work well with they may not enjoy their experience.
This is not to say that kids should always put on teams with their friends and if someone is on a structure team one year they always HAVE to do structure, but make sure you are considering what the kids want to do when you make your decisions.
The bottom line, if a child is excited about the challenge and the experience before them they will likely put a lot more effort into the experience than if they feel they were forced into something or if they are ‘stuck’ on a team they don’t want to be on.
I hope this information gives you some things to think about as you are forming teams. Like I said before, there is no right or wrong way to do this- these are simply some things to consider in forming a team.
Remember that diversity on teams is a good thing and that teams do not always have to be made up of great friends. Remember that a team of all leaders is just as bad as a team without a clear leader and that Challenge A and E require a performance too so you may want to have someone on your team that wants to think about costumes, team choice elements and performances. :)
If you have further questions on team formation or questions, comments or things you would like me to include on my blog in the future please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Good luck with your team formations!