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Vermont Kids Compete Creatively in Destination Imagination


Published June 4, 2024 at 10:00 a.m.
Updated June 5, 2024 at 11:22 a.m.

Left to right:  Aubrey Orzell, Riley O'Brian, Claire Proulx, Maddie Russo, Mio Armstrong, Charlie Lafayette, Jane Youngbaer - COURTESY
  • Courtesy
  • Left to right: Aubrey Orzell, Riley O'Brian, Claire Proulx, Maddie Russo, Mio Armstrong, Charlie Lafayette, Jane Youngbaer

"A broken jar, a bit of stone — the remains of the past are all around us. Have you ever wondered what those things might have been used for or what they meant to the people who made them?" That's the tantalizing beginning of the 2023-24 scientific challenge posed by Destination Imagination.

Each academic year, the 25-year-old, largely volunteer-run global nonprofit issues a series of challenges organized by a variety of themes — such as engineering, fine arts and community service — and invites kids and teens from kindergarten to college to complete them by incorporating various elements into an eight-minute skit. This scientific challenge requires participants to "create and present a story about a character whose discovery of an artifact leads to a finding." The skit also has to include an archeological investigation — and a puppet portraying a character from the past.

Jane Youngbaer, Vermont state affiliate director, explained that DI's science and tech challenges always include a theatrical component and the arts-related challenges always have technical aspects. It's one of the things that distinguishes DI from other academic competitions such as FIRST Robotics.

This year 31 teams registered with Vermont's DI affiliate, and 25 signed up for the state tournament. Some teams were organized by schools, others by homeschoolers, makerspaces or families. The state champs, a group of fifth and sixth graders from Randolph Elementary School, completed the scientific challenge. Their skit focused on the Hamsa Hand, and they created a story that wove in Medusa, a choreographed dance to an altered pop song by Meghan Trainor and a contemporary feminist message: "No means no."

Their performance was compelling enough to earn them a chance to compete at the DI Global Finals in Kansas City, Mo. at the end of May. That event drew teams from more than 40 states, every continent except Antarctica, and countries including Turkey, Qatar, China, Korea, Mexico and even Ukraine, Youngbaer said.

The Randolph Elementary students didn't place in the final competition, but they enjoyed meeting other DI teams. And Youngbaer is already thinking about recruiting teams for next year's challenges. "We want people to start thinking about them and getting organized this summer," she said.

Previews of the 2024-25 challenges are available at, though full descriptions won't be released until August. For more information, contact Jane Youngbaer at [email protected].

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