Getting to the Essence

What a few months it has been since my last blog! Getting 15 teams ready for the Destination ImagiNation tournament was a whirlwind. Once again I have been in awe of the students on my teams. This is a different kind of teamwork and it can be messy and emotional as the pressure of “competing” draws closer. But it is in those final moments when you really get to see students come into their own.

This year the team heading to Tennessee worked on the fine arts challenge: a four minute movie trailer that included an original soundtrack, cinematic effects and the incorporation of two nations into their story. The Super Ninja Chix embraced the genre and were very dedicated in creating fantastic sets, a gripping story and an amazing soundtrack. The pressure of the day was pretty intense, but in the end they really did a great job!

Since I have had the luxury of working with this team and the winning team from last year, I also have the chance to reflect and compare what “winning qualities” they possessed in order to come out on top and I’d like to share my observations. 

First of all, I’m going take hard work and organization right out of the equation because this was a quality that I saw in many of the teams. I couldn’t say that it was about teamwork because even though they all came together in the end to make it happen, there were some very interesting dynamics that happened along along the way and many of the other teams were more cohesive. I’m also going to remove creativity because all the groups were incredibly creative in very diverse ways. So what might account for the difference that gave them the edge?

Please remember that my observations are based on a very small sample and are non-scientific BUT there was one conversation that I had to have with both of these teams that I didn’t have with any of the others. The conversation went something like this:

“Is there any way that you can simplify this project to make it manageable and still fit within the parameters of the challenge?”


“Will you be able to make what you have planned work?”


And with that began the painstaking process of editing/scaling down/pruning without losing the brilliant parts.

I read an article once that described how Leonard Cohen wrote many verses to his song “Closing Time” before paring it down to the three that are included in his recording. Those extra verses are really important even if you don’t include them because they are a part of the creative process which includes making your way through all of the possibilities. But eventually you have to get to the essence and remove all of the extraneous pieces that distract from either your message or your task. It’s hard because we’ve often fallen in love with these pieces for a variety of reasons but to finish, we must let them go.

Both groups were faced with this dilemma and both managed to find their way through. At the ripe old age of 13 going on 14 and in grade eight…that’s pretty amazing.


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