Six teams from Maharishi School will attend the Global Finals of Destination Imagination, a program that tests students’ problem-solving skills in areas such as engineering, science and fine arts.
The final round of the competition has traditionally been on the campus of the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, but this year it’s moving to Kansas City. That sounds like it would be great for Maharishi School, since it cuts the driving time in half.
However, this year presents unique financial challenges for the school. Not only has the cost of attending Global Finals risen from $1,300 per student to $1,900 in just a couple of years, but Maharishi School is sending so many students – 28 to be exact, including half its middle school. And that amount just covers the entry fee, not room or board. Last year, Maharishi School sent 12 students to Global Finals.
The large bill looming on the horizon has forced the school and the parents of these children to scramble for fundraisers. Joel Roodman, whose 12-year-old son Max is a member of DI, said the fundraising has to be done in a six-week window from the time the students learned they’ve qualified for Global Finals until the event itself, which is from May 22-25.
Last weekend, the DI students solicited donations by going door-to-door throughout the town. They plan to host a garage sale April 27 and May 4 at 1600 S. Main St.
Mark Wilkins, the school’s DI coordinator, said volunteers will pick up items such as furniture and haul it to the site of the garage sale.
“That alone is a huge service,” Wilkins remarked. “People wait all year to give us stuff.”
In addition to the garage sale, students have started GoFundMe campaigns online, and have solicited donations at recent political rallies. Roodman said his son Max has really gotten into fundraising. He took a friend with him to a fundraising event, and the friend liked it so much, he’s planning to sign up for DI next year.
The students are planning a fundraising showcase May 18 at the school, where they will demonstrate for the public the projects they will take to Global Finals.
Nearly 30 countries compete in DI’s Global Finals, which attracts an average of 1,400 teams and 9,000 students.
Maharishi School’s six teams are: an elementary team competing in the fine arts category; four middle school teams, competing in the categories of fine arts, improv, science and engineering; and a high school team competing in fine arts.
No help from adults
Destination Imagination requires a group of students to collaborate on a project, whether it’s building a machine or putting on a skit. Everything the students do must come from their own heads without any coaching or help from adults.
“I cannot stress enough that there is zero input from parents,” Roodman said.
“We supervise for safety,” Wilkins added, “but we can’t give any input. We can’t show them how to sew a costume. They have to do that.”
Wilkins said he particularly likes Destination Imagination because “we don’t often celebrate creativity like this.”