Four Darien girls spent Saturday, March 25, competing at the Connecticut state “Destination Imagination” tournament, a global initiative designed to promote STEM education. The Tokeneke fourth graders, Madeleine Hardy, Yashika Sharma, Charlie Bower and Grace Vanovitch, took first place in the elementary ‘Vanished’ challenge, earning them a place in the Global Finals in Knoxville, Tennessee later in the year.

The journey was started by two moms and team managers, Teresa Jandziol and Neenu Sharma in September. Both wanted their daughters to have fun with some STEM projects while building confidence and learning to think “out of the box.”

“Destination Imagination is wonderful program, it helps children build lifelong problem solving skills, nurtures their creativity and develops self confidence,” Jandziol said.

The Darien Blue Wave team selected a fine arts challenge from seven possible subjects: science, technology, engineering, mathematics, fine arts, service learning, and early learning. The challenge involved selecting a color and showing the impact of its disappearance with a special effect, a colorful character and several other criteria. The team chose the color ‘gray’ and developed a skit, including a rotating cube as scenery, to show that gray is a far more important color than it seems. The dramatic special effect included mercury disappearing from a thermometer as a doctor tried to take a child’s temperature.

“I love Destination Imagination, we have done so many interesting things and become such good friends” said Yashika Sharma, 9.

The girls experienced an imaginative journey collaborating on all areas of the project. They met, voted on a challenge, researched colors and their meanings, and wrote a script collaboratively on Google Docs. They then brought the script to life by rehearsing their skit, designing and creating scenery, props and sound effects and debating their next steps to perfect their performance.

In the state tournament in Bethel, teams also had to compete in an instant challenge, where they were tested on their ability to think on their feet and work as a team to problem solve a challenge they had never seen before in a few minutes. The teams were scored on a variety of elements, including originality, workmanship, presentation and teamwork.

Earning first place, and the invitation to compete in the global finals against teams from around the country and across the world was a tremendous reward for their journey.