Local Destination ImagiNation teams advance to Globals

Northern Carlton County schools sent a total of nine teams to the state Destination ImagiNation tournament in Champlin Park, Minn., on April 12. Those nine teams joined a total of 150 teams from around the state in a day-long competition that fea...

659540+DI award dancing enchiladas_0155.JPG
Members of the Cloquet Middle School Structure Dancing Enchiladas team Noah Kolodge (left) and Ethan Matzdorf talk to the emcee prior to competition. Other team members include Marjorie Larsen, Josh Sutherland, Jake Sutherland and Evan McWilliams. The Dancing Enchiladas are headed to the DI Global competition in May. Jana Peterson/

Northern Carlton County schools sent a total of nine teams to the state Destination ImagiNation tournament in Champlin Park, Minn., on April 12. Those nine teams joined a total of 150 teams from around the state in a day-long competition that featured a little bit of everything: physics, public speaking, singing, acting, engineering, set design … even some last minute carpentry for one Cloquet team.

The What Team? got off to a rough start when they discovered their backdrop - a critical element of their fine arts category - wouldn’t fit under the coach bus that was transporting the Cloquet teams to State.

They tried wedging the large backdrop, basically a painted cloth stretched taut across a wooden frame, under the bus, shoving it in the back of the bus and, in the end, had to dismantle one end to fit it in. That meant, of course, that they had to put it back together when they arrived at Jackson Middle School on the morning of April 12.

It was the essence of DI, which is a creative, problem-solving program which encourages teams of students to solve challenges based on the team members’ interests. Team members Marie Osuna, Reilly White and Tray Olson got to work with the drill and hammer and whatever else they could find to make the job go more smoothly.

Osuna’s dad, Ramon, offered a few suggestions, including the word “improvise” when Marie complained that the screws weren’t long enough.


“I don’t know if any of them have ever used power tools before, but they’re working well together,” Ramon said with a chuckle and more than a hint of admiration. “I think [Marie] enjoys that she has to be creative for this, and she’s definitely gotten better every year. She’s a bit of a competitor too, so she enjoys that part.”

The day ran the gamut for the Carlton County teams. The Odd Ones Out team from Queen of Peace delivered a near flawless performance in their The Tension Builds Challenge, but their structure (which had to be tested against two forces at the same time) did not hold as much weight as Cloquet’s Dancing Enchiladas team’s structure did.

In the end, the Dancing Enchiladas took second place in their challenge, upending the Odd Ones Out, which had finished ahead of the Cloquet team at regionals.

Different categories had different requirements for participants and zany judges offered a lot of support but were strict in their judging and gave no quarter when teams didn’t fulfill all the “points of interest” outlined for each category: fine arts, scientific, technical, improvisational, structural and service learning.

Each team also had to participate in an Instant Challenge at some point during the day, an effort which was judged as well and added to their scores. Team members must think on their feet by applying appropriate skills to produce a solution to a problem that is kept confidential until the time of the challenge in a period of five to 10 minutes.

A total of four teams traveled to the state competition from Cloquet, three from Esko (although four qualified, one team had to stay behind and take the ACT tests that Saturday) and two from Queen of Peace.

Four of the nine Carlton County teams ended the day by qualifying for DI Globals by placing in the top three of their category, earning the opportunity to participate in the international competition held at the University of Tennessee at the end of May, where they could join students from 50 states and more than 40 countries.

An Esko high school team, The Allies, won first place in the Going to Extremes scientific challenge and earned a Renaissance award for their efforts as well.


For Cloquet, the winners were:

  •  To Empower and Beyond, first place, project OUTREACH secondary level
  •  Kick It Into Gear, second place, project OUTREACH middle level
  •  Dancing Enchiladas, second place, Challenge: The Tension Builds, middle level

The Cloquet DI teams are currently fundraising to help pay for their trip to State, by selling hanging flower baskets from Carlton Greenhouse. Call Deb Peterson at Cloquet Middle School for more information or to order a plant by May 10.
Esko’s The Allies aren’t going to make the trip this year, said Joyce Bergstedt, gifted and talented coordinator for Esko. They went last year and couldn’t afford another trip this year, she explained.

What To Read Next
Fundraising is underway to move the giant ball of twine from the Highland, Wisconsin, home of creator James Frank Kotera, who died last month at age 75, 44 years after starting the big ball.