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News from 2023-2024

Posted: March 12, 2024

Hawthorne Students Learning to Solve Problems, be Creative

Destination Imagination program helping students develop skills and mindsets they’ll need to succeed.

Hawthorne Elementary's Too Many Rainy Tacos team won first place in the Destination Imagination Tournament technical category earlier this month.

Hawthorne Elementary's Too Many Rainy Tacos team won first place in the Destination Imagination Tournament technical category earlier this month.

These Hawthorne Elementary students know how to get out of a bind!

The inquisitive fourth-graders – better known as the Too Many Rainy Tacos – discovered a pinball machine, and who can resist a pinball machine? Alas, the machine was haunted, and they were sucked into another dimension by a villain seeking servants “for all ETERNITY.”

Fear not, the students – played by Jade Jojola, Luna Hibbs-Gordon, Paxton Larribas, Kaylie Rickley, Rubi Rodriguez, and Denise Garcia – worked together to defeat the evil machine and return to their dimension!

Technically, the outcome of this play was predetermined. Despite Rene Sanchez’s spirited performance of the villain, good was always going to conquer evil!

The students, nevertheless, demonstrated resilience, resourcefulness, and perseverance as they took the top prize in the Destination Imagination Tournament technical category earlier this month. In all, 20 teams from Albuquerque Public Schools, Aztec, Las Cruces, Clovis, and Belen competed in this year’s state tournament.

STEAM challenge

The play – put on earlier this month at Atrisco Heritage Academy High School – was the finale of Destination Imagination, a hands-on, problem-solving experience that inspires students to be creative. Using STEAM, teams of students are forced to think outside the box and create unique solutions to one of six challenges as they prepare for a competition.

The teams, which were allowed seven members, worked for months to create stories, props, costumes, and technology. Participating students worked together to create a solution, manage money and time, take risks, and fail and try again.

Hawthorne’s Too Many Rainy Tacos team opted to create and present an action/adventure story about a hero who goes on an extraordinary mission. The team designed and built a pinball system through which a pinball moves and interacts with three machine modules. They were tasked with moving the pinball through the pinball system as long as possible.

The team even managed to keep the pinball in play after one of the “flippers” broke, garnering the DaVinci prize for the valiant effort.

Focus on critical thinking

Hawthorne gifted teacher Mary Cunningham managed Hawthorne’s teams, which were made up of the school’s high-achieving students. She used the Destination Imagination program as her curriculum. The Talent Pool class met twice a week for 45 minutes.

Cunningham said she likes the program’s focus on critical thinking, creativity, and collaboration, which, she notes, are all sought-after job skills in today’s economy.

“It teaches students resiliency,” she said. “The Too Many Rainy Tacos team spent two months trying to make a pinball flipper out of a mouse trap spring. They never could make it work, so they came up with the idea of using a slingshot device to launch the pinball into play. They then figured out how to make one.”

And, she adds, even though it broke during the tournament presentation, they were able to quickly repair it and keep the pinball in play.

Complete ownership

“I think the mindsets they gain are invaluable, things like mistakes help us grow, embrace challenge, problem-solving takes time, and your ideas matter,” Cunningham said. “Attending this tournament is incredibly powerful for these kids, especially since they have complete ownership of what they produce.”

She stressed that as the team manager, she was only allowed to teach them skills and get them materials they asked for. Cunningham wasn’t allowed to make suggestions for how to solve the challenge. Students selected the challenge, wrote the play by themselves, and created their scenery, costumes, props, and the technology required by the challenge.

Two other Hawthorne teams also placed in the tournament.

The school’s third-grade team, Pakok Squad, won a second-place trophy in the scientific category. And Hawthorne’s fifth-grade team placed third in the improv challenge.

Creative Programs of New Mexico, a non-profit organization, hosts the New Mexico Destination Imagination State Tournament.