Seven Wylie DI teams are headed to state in nine different challenges after an impressive performance at the Greater Fort Worth Regional Meet in February.
The teams will be performing at state in hopes of winning a spot in the Global Finals, a huge gathering of the top Destination Imagination teams from all over the world.
However, one of Wylie’s DI teams has already made a global impact.
Science Alliance, a team of 6th and 7th-graders, chose the community service option for their challenge. Their service project was to reach out to a school in Rwanda and teach those students the creative thinking skills that Wylie students have learned in DI.
“I had been to Rwanda before,” said team member Benton Hanner, a Wylie East 7th-grader. “It was a place near and dear to my heart. I thought if we were going to be spending all this time working on DI, we might as well be helping someone.”
Benton and his mother, Jennifer, who is Science Alliance’s team leader, had been to Rwanda on a church mission trip.
They suggested the school in Rwanda could really use some help, and Benton’s teammates agreed.
“We wanted to impact the Rwanda children and give those kids the opportunities that we have here to do DI,” said teammate Gentry Connor, a 6th-grader at Wylie East Junior High.
Science Alliance made a video to send to the Rwanda students demonstrating how to use critical thinking skills to do an instant challenge. The Rwanda students sent back a video. Then the two teams zoomed.
“It was really fun,” Gentry said. “They were really respectful to us. That’s not something that kids in Junior High experience a lot.”
Arianna Paasch, a 6th-grader at Wylie West, said talking with the Rwanda kids on Zoom was very cool.
“It was really nice to talk with kids that are across the world,” she said. “They weren’t really that different. They had a lot of manners, and they were really nice.”
In addition to its service project, Science Alliance had to create an 8-minute skit that related to the project. The skit had to be a science fiction story and use a message transmitter.
Noah Flores, a 7th-grader at Wylie East Junior High, said the team created a story in which a gorilla, a goat and a cow form a research team.
“They notice there is a new strain of malaria,” he said. “When a mosquito bites the children, they lose their creativity.”
Noah played the goat.
“I was like a comic relief kind of character,” he said. “Most of it is pretty serious, so we needed some comic relief.”
Tyler Hawks, a 7th-grader at Wylie West, built the message transmitter.
“It started out with a prototype,” he said. “I used all kinds of electrical things. It took many iterations before we got to the final product.”
Tyler said he loves building, but other team members are good at writing the story, acting, making costumes, etc.
“We all have our differences and a different set of skills,” he said. “It helps us come together to make a great team.”
Max Thornton, a Wylie East 7th-grader, also enjoyed the creating part.
“I loved building in general, when we got to make stuff,” he said. “I got to make a gorilla mask with sculpting and paper mache.”
Only Tyler, Benton and Kaden Copeland were returning to the team from last year, but Max said even with so many first-time members, the team quickly developed chemistry. That helped them win their challenge and a trip to state.
“We are all friends, and we all get along and we can communicate really well,” he said.
Noah said he was very happy when he learned the team had earned a trip to state.
“I was really excited,” he said. “I was jumping up and down and dancing. I can’t even explain it.”
But getting to state is only the first step for Gentry, who has been participating in DI for three years. She said she wants to get to Globals.
“That’s been my dream ever since I started DI,” she said. “I feel like that is the biggest thing for DI, and it’s something I want to accomplish.”
Even if the team does not get to Globals, its service project will continue to be felt globally.
A team of Wylie students, teachers and parents, including Wylie DI director Kim Cheek, will be going to Rwanda this summer and doing a STEAM camp for the school there.
Benton also will be part of the group. He is excited to return because his first trip was a great experience.
“I was one of the first blonde people that they had ever seen,” he said. “They kind of went crazy over that. It was very special. You got to see how happy they were without a lot of things that we take for granted. It was eye-opening.”