Two teams under one roof means double the imagination

Two teams under one roof means double the imagination

Ten-year-old Bill Xia attempts to add a spire to his Destination Imagination team's construction paper tower as teammates and fellow Community School students, from left, Olivia Pires, 11; Sofia Morgan, 11; and Tommy Goggin, 11, wait with bated breath. The team is one of two coached by Jeff and Amy Goggin. (Valley Breeze photos by Meghan Kavanaugh)

CUMBERLAND - Huddled around a long, wooden table, a group of eager engineers discuss strategies for how to build the tallest tower they can out of just pieces of colored construction paper.

Before long, the scene is a flurry of yellow as they frantically try to stack the tower higher and try new folding methods as each tower tips over, almost in slow motion.

Once the time is up and final tower measured, the participants evaluate their performance. Some were not communicating enough, while others were too quick to dismiss new ideas, they decided.

While the assessments could be out of any corporate boardroom in America, these were straight from the mouths of 11-year-olds as they kneeled on dining room chairs to have a better reach.

These Community School students are part of Destination Imagination, a national nonprofit organization that encourages teams to challenge themselves while focusing on the arts, service learning, and the STEM skills of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

They meet each week at the Arnold Mills home of Jeff and Amy Goggin to work on instant challenges, like the paper tower exercise, as well as prepare for their trip to the regional competition at Connecticut College on March 22.

They have quite the example to follow. In 2012, a Community School team placed first in the Rhode Island competition and competed in nationals in Nashville, Tenn.

And while just one Destination Imagination team could fill any home with a soundtrack of actively creative minds coming up with ideas for plays and props, the Goggins have two.

One is full of 5th-graders, the other is for grades 3 and 4. Together, they are a ball of energy 14-strong.

This is the Goggins first year coaching, and participants include their three children - 11-year-old twins Timory and Tommy, and 8-year-old daughter Delaney.

"It just seemed like a really neat program," Amy said, full of imaginative problem solving. "It's loud, but it's fun."

Coaches sign non-interference contracts to ensure the kids can come up with ideas on their own.

The big project for both teams is about extreme environments. The younger kids chose Mount Everest, while the others picked underwater caves. Both groups will have to conduct research to come up with gear needed to survive, as well as write and perform a skit that incorporates their findings.

Amy said that especially with the older group, she is interested to see how they take on different roles and how some naturally emerge as leaders.

Jeff said that at an age when boys and girls tend to separate themselves, he enjoys seeing them working together as they "develop the ability to think on their feet" and "quickly come up with solutions to a problem."

Members of the younger group, named "Jack Fell Off Mount Everest...Again," are: Annie Henderson, 8; Delaney Goggin, 8; Annika Dotzenrod, 8; Jack Acciardo, 8; Cole McCue, 8; Victoria Fontaine, 8; and Ella Mundy, 9.

The older group, called "Clever M-BBOTTS," consists of: Timory Goggin, 11; Tommy Goggin, 11; Olivia Pires, 11; Sofia Morgan, 11; Max Iwuc, 11; Bill Xia, 10; and Brooke Claveria, 10.

"My favorite part is the instant challenges because all you get is a few things and you have to build something or protect something and you only have about four minutes to do it," Brooke said. "That's why you have to use your imagination."

This Community School Destination Imagination team discovered that what goes up must come down as their construction paper tower fell to the table. Members of the team include, from left, Brooke Claveria, 10; Timory Goggin, 11; Olivia Pires, 11; Sofia Morgan, 11; Bill Xia, 10; Tommy Goggin, 11; and Max Iwuc, 11.
As part of an instant challenge during Destination Imagination team practice, Annie Henderson, left, tries to add height to a construction paper tower while Delaney Goggin braces for a fall. The girls are both 8 years old and attend Community School.
Eight-year-old Delaney Goggin tries to add materials to her Destination Imagination team's construction paper tower as teammates look on. The younger of the two Community School teams coached by Jeff and Amy Goggin include members, clockwise from left, Delaney; Annika Dotzenrod, 8; Jack Acciardo, 8; Cole McCue, 8; and Annie Henderson, 8.