So you have your Program Materials and Team Number, and now you are asking yourself... when should I get started? Are teams meeting now? The Challenges were released in September- have teams been working since then?
For lack of a solid answer to this question, 'that depends...' seems to be the best answer I can give. There is no right answer to this question and you and your team ultimately need to decide what is best for YOU but I will offer some guidance and some things I feel are important to consider when making this decision.
Some teams have been meeting since September- when I was competing on a Secondary level team I know we did. Some teams will start in January- I know many other Secondary level teams that did just that. The truth is most teams start somewhere in between. Destination ImagiNation Team Challenges are designed to be solved in as little as 8 weeks although many and in fact most teams meet for longer than that.
If your school has an established program this may already be decided for you. Often times schools have a selection process for how kids get involved in DI and which teams they will be placed on. Other times it is up to the Team Manager and the team to drive this process.
If you are deciding when it is time to get started, start by taking some time to ask yourself these questions (in no particular order):
- When is our Regional Tournament Scheduled for?
- How old are the kids?
- Are these students new to DI?
- Has this team worked together before?
- What Challenge has your team decided they want to solve?
- What are the team goals as far as what they are hoping to get out of their DI experience?
- What other activities are the team members involved with that may impact your ability to meet?
How you answer the questions above will help you determine what the correct timeline is for your team.
1. When is our Regional Tournament Scheduled for?
Your tournament date may very well have a factor in determining when you should start. In Wisconsin our first Regional tournament takes place the last week in February and the last Regional Tournament takes place the last weekend in March. If your Tournament is earlier you should start earlier, and if your tournament is later you may decide to get started a little bit later since you have a bit more time.
2. How old are the kids?
Age of your team members can play a major factor in deciding when you should start your team. Very young children may have a difficult time working for 6 months on a Challenge. The attention span of a 5 year old is much different than the attention span of a 15 year old.
On the other hand, younger children may need more time to solve the challenge at hand. More time for research, more time to meet etc. They may not be able to meet more than once a week after school for 1-2 hours so it may take them more time to solve their challenge than say a high school team who can meet for 4 hours at a time or until 10 pm at night.
There is no magic answer correlating timelines with ages, but age should definitely be considered in deciding when to start.
3. Are these students new to DI?
Having a 'seasoned' team of DIers and a team of newbies can definitely play into deciding when you want to start. A team of students who are unfamiliar with the Destination ImagiNation program- reading a challenge, working as a team, generating ideas, going to tournament, etc. may require some more time up front just to 'figure out' what this whole 'DI thing' is and how to get started, whereas a team of seasoned DIers can pick up a Challenge and hit the ground running.
As a general rule: if the kids are new to DI make sure to allow some time extra time for them to figure out what they have to do and how the entire process works.
4. Has this team worked together before?
Teamwork and teambuilding is a HUGE part of any DI team experience, and if your team has not worked together before- in its entirety or if you are adding new members to an existing team, you need to TAKE TIME TO TEAMBUILD! In order for your team to feel comfortable sharing ideas and working together, they need to learn about each other and learn HOW to work together. If this stage is skipped or if you do not allow time for the 'team' mentality to form you will be feeling it the rest of the season.
If you team has worked together before however, the initial teambuilding stage can be expedited- but do not skip it! Teamwork and teambuilding is an important part of every DI experience and should constantly be nurtured and built upon. Over the years as a team member, appraiser and trainer, I have experienced firsthand that the most successful teams are just that- a TEAM!
5. What Challenge has your team decided they want to solve?
Which Challenge your team has chosen to bring to tournament may help you decide on your timeline. If your team will be solving Challenge A for instance and there is a major technical component involved, this may require your team to start a bit earlier. If your team has decided to participate in Challenge D the improvisational challenge your team may decided they do not need as much time and opt to start later in the season. How much time your team feels they need to solve the challenge is up to you- but which Challenge your team chooses may be something to think about in determining when you want to start.
6. What are the team goals as far as what they are hoping to get out of their DI experience?
It is important to facilitate this conversation early on with your team to make sure that everyone is hoping to get the same thing out of their DI experience. Is your goal as a team to have fun and make it to the regional tournament or does your team have the goal of making it to Global Finals?
The amount of time and energy a team wants to invest into the DI Progress and their solution is up to the team. Teams that qualify to compete at the Global Finals competition generally put months and months of work into their solutions and all team members are extremely committed to perfecting their solutions. This oftentimes involves starting earlier in the season, meeting more often, and working on things outside of team meetings.
If your team is new, or your team just wants to 'have fun and do the best we can', however you may decide to start later in the year and meet less frequently.
Your team goals are just that: YOUR Team goals. There is no right or wrong way to approach the DI experience; it will just be beneficial to all parties involved to determine your goals early in the season to make sure that everyone is on the same page regarding how much time and effort your team is willing to put into their solution and what you want to accomplish.
7. What other activities are the team members involved with that may impact your ability to meet?
Logistically, it may not be possible for your team to start in September even if you wanted to. Kids these days are involved in tons of activities both in school and out of school, so when determining when your team is going to start and when your team is going to meet it is important to know what you are up against. Perhaps you have team members involved in the Fall play, or kids that are playing a fall sport which may mean that starting in January may necessary. Or perhaps you have a team member in a Spring play or on the track team and you know that starting in say February they will have practices that will conflict with your team meeting schedules so you may need to start meeting earlier so that you are finished with your solution before these conflicts arise. How you work it out is up to you and your team- just know what you are working with so you can plan accordingly.
Taking time to plan your DI season and decide when you are going to start based on what is best for your team is an important step in starting the DI journey! Think about the questions above and lay out a plan that is right for your team to lay a solid foundation for what is sure to be a great and exciting year!
As always, check out the Wisconsin DI Website for up to date information regarding WIDI here: Wisconsin Destination ImagiNation
And please don't hesitate to email your questions to me at: email@example.com