HARRINGTON, Maine — Narraguagus High School, which has fewer than 250 students, is sending its state championship Destination ImagiNation team to Tennessee in June. The five team members will compete against teams from around the world.
More than 1,500 students from lands as diverse as China, Turkey, Brazil, Korea and the U.S. will participate in the event, a combination of problem solving, teamwork, acting, research and critical thinking. For the global championships in Knoxville, Tenn., the Maine team has had to research and come up with a five-minute play that either defends or rejects each of 10 topics, as wide-ranging as the decline of the polar bear or the loss of the Yiddish language. Each team must employ a stock character and use invisible props or human scenery.
To pay for the Washington County team’s once-in-a-lifetime adventure, team members are planning an auction at 5 p.m. Friday, May 14, which includes a skit and instant challenge by team members. Auction items include seafood, a 9-foot skiff, a seven-night stay at a time share in Mexico and sports memorabilia. They must raise $5,000 for the trip and recently raised $1,000 at a bottle drive.
The process of getting this far has been invaluable to the students, team members said Tuesday.
“This is the only extracurricular academic program that aligns itself with the Maine Learning Results,” assistant coach Gail Myshrall said.
“This is my first time as their coach,” English teacher Zach Alarcon said, “but this is such an example of how kids can inspire you. I love seeing them apply themselves. The Maine Learning Results are in a book, but through DI we get to see them come to life.”
Narraguagus has sent a team to the global competition six times and placed between second and sixth each time.
“They prepare by studying for six months,” Alarcon said. “There is nothing written down ahead of time. It is all in their heads, memorized.”
Meanwhile, the students said, they are learning a lot about teamwork and preparation.
“Our ultimate goal is to study and learn all the categories,” student Stephen Strout of Milbridge said. “It is awesome. We will have five minutes to perform and seven minutes’ prep time once the category is selected. All our preparations are done as a group.”
“My role is not to interfere,” Alarcon said. “It is their skit.”
Along with the prepared topics, the students will be judged on an instant challenge, which uses critical thinking and teamwork. Some instant challenges in the past required teams to use nonverbal communication to build a machine to pop all the balloons in a maze. Another required them to build a bridge with newspaper, string and a soup can.
The students are excited about heading to the global championships.
“It is just like the Olympics,” Strout said. “We march in for opening ceremonies. We trade pins — ours is the lobster, of course.”
But most important, the students said, they feel successful and are able to stretch their life experiences.
“We get to meet people from all over the world that we would never meet, coming from small towns in Maine,” Strout said. “We are mature when we need to be, but we also know how to have fun.”
Shy kids come out of the box, while each person has a turn in the spotlight.
“We are taking everything we learn away with us,” student Katy Mathews said. “For me, instead of a sport, DI is a great comfort to me. I get to know people on a whole different level. It’s like a club of its own, an escape.”
On Saturday, June 12, a family fun day and antique car show will be held, which will include slides and bounce houses for children, a barbecue and games.
Anyone who wants to donate to the Destination ImagiNation trip may send checks to Destination ImagiNation, c/o Narraguagus High School, 1611 Main St., Harrington 04643.