Teams from two schools stretch minds, win state championships


TWO WEST COUNTY schools are celebrating state championships in the Maryland Destination Imagination program.

An outgrowth of the Odyssey of the Mind competition, Destination Imagination offers schoolchildren a chance to explore learning in new, creative "outside the box" ways.

For months, teams of children have been meeting after school and on weekends, preparing responses to unusual challenges. Hundreds of teams from around the state competed, first at the local level, then in regional events.

Regional winners met at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County campus April 8 in the statewide finals, where teams from Four Seasons Elementary School in Gambrills and Crofton Woods Elementary placed first in their respective problem categories.

Four Seasons won in the "Fruit Roller Coaster" category. Team members Ryan Alto, Kelsey Johnson, Chris Gallagher, Chrissy Bagley, Brianna Anderson, Danielle Doll and Sarah Wolf were challenged to build a roller coaster that would carry tennis balls on a wild ride.

Ryan wrote to the Six Flags amusement park in Largo, asking for information on roller coasters. A representative from the park visited the children and talked about the physics involved in putting together an exciting, yet safe, ride.

The team spent hours planning the project, anticipating problems and gathering materials. Pupils scavenged old tires for the track, boards from their garages and a shop vacuum for a power source.

During their presentation at the competition, team members pretended to be such scientists as Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein, whose work helped lay the groundwork for modern physics.

The work paid off: Their roller coaster was judged the fastest and their project the best in their category.

Offered congratulations, the team managers -- parents Mike Johnson, Judy Alto and Rick Alto -- stressed that the success belonged to the children. The parents may have facilitated the meetings, but the ideas and the work all came from the team members.

Crofton Woods' team won in the "Instant Pudding Improv" category, in which members Rebecca Johansson, Jimmy McConnell, Kristen Grace, Molly Coombs, Alex Klingelhoeffer, Adam Rashidi and Terri Munns focused on history and literature.

In the fall, the children were given a list of 12 historic names, as varied as Santa Ana, Einstein, Confucius and Harriet Tubman. Then they were given a list of 12 historic times and places, such as Egypt at the time of pyramid-building and China during the visit of Marco Polo.

For its challenge, the team would be asked a question, linking a person with one of the places. With only half an hour to prepare, the children were to organize a skit answering the question and pulling in as much of their research as possible.

The challenge is difficult because each competition is different. Each time, team members have to deal with a new problem, working together to devise an entertaining, informative skit.

For months, they had practiced by combining all kinds of situations: What would Helen Keller have done in the Civil War? What would Napoleon have done in China? At the statewide competition, they were asked to create a skit within that half-hour on the hypothetical question of how one of the historical figures might have dealt with a situation in which a friend wanted him to do something that was wrong.

Team managers Sharon Munns and Nancy Rashidi said they developed a lot of respect for the children in their group. "They learned to think on their feet and to really work as a team," Munns said.

As state winners, the teams are preparing for the Destination Imagination global championship to be held next month at Iowa State University. They have been making travel arrangements and raising money to defray costs.

Information: Judy Alto at 410-721-8066.

CARP meeting

The Crofton Association of Retired Persons (CARP) will hold its monthly meeting at 10: 30 a.m. tomorrow in the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish Hall in Crofton. The Pascal Go-Getters, a vocal group, will perform, and lunch will follow.

Membership is open to area residents 55 and older. Annual dues are $10; monthly lunch meetings are $7.

Information: Grace Walker at 410-721-8830.

No smoking

Arundel Middle School pupils have been awarded free passes to a Bowie Baysox baseball game as winners of the recent county Health Department Tobacco- Free Kids Week contest.

Seventy-three percent of the pupils at Arundel Middle signed pledges agreeing not to smoke.

As a reward, the pupils have been invited to attend Anne Arundel County Tobacco-Free Kids Day and repeat their pledge at the ballpark April 30. County Executive Janet S. Owens will lead a pregame rally of the children and throw out the first ball.

Egg hunt rescheduled

The Easter Bunny was rained out Saturday.

The annual Crofton Civic Association Easter egg hunt has been rescheduled for noon Saturday at Crofton Elementary School on Duke of Kent Drive. Information: 410-721-2301.

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