REMEMBER – It’s Their Solution!

But, exactly where is the boundary?   This guide will help you find it!

If they don’t finish, then they didn’t finish – but that doesn’t mean that the TMs failed

Karen said:

I think my husband is getting a little worried and he's trying to make sure they show some progress at every meeting. Which can be a little restraining at times for the kids. Does anyone have any advice I can give him on patience and how important it is that the kids do this themselves, in their own way, even if they don't get it all done the way they planned?

Dear Karen:

I think this is one of the major problems we all face at one time or another – TM's and parents alike. I had a parent last year very concerned about my teams progress – which up until the last three weeks was practically nil. I had to constantly repeat to her that "it's their problem – not ours" – over and over and over again. She would sputter and vent – and I found the only thing I could do was keep repeating that statement until she finally "heard" me.

I think the hardest lesson we have to learn – as both parents and teachers and TM's – is that the things our children do are not reflections of us as individuals. We like to think that we are responsible for the things our kids do – but we're not – they are. If they don't get done – THEY don't get done – it means THEY didn't finish – it does not mean we failed them. Ultimately we are all responsible for our own behavior. And what better time than when they are this young to learn that they only have themselves to blame in life for what they do – or do not do.

And maybe stressing to your husband that the best lessons we learn in life – we learn through our own mistakes and accomplishments. And the BEST way to teach a child – is to allow them the freedom to take a chance and do things their way – and make mistakes – and learn from them . And then their accomplishments and successes will be THEIRS! The sense of pride that comes from doing a job well –and knowing you did it yourself – well – to me it is unmatched. And if they can discover that kind of pride in themselves at this young age – they will carry that with them through their life. And later into adolescence – maybe they'll be less likely to follow peer pressures that lead to problems with drugs or alcohol – and maybe when they are adults – they'll be more likely to take have confidence in their abilities and they'll have the knowledge that they CAN go after their dreams in their careers instead of taking a job that just pays the bills.

Tell your husband – that what helps me – is when I trust that the kids will learn from this no matter what happens – and sometimes – the learning curve is slower for some than others. Some kids need to not get done and have huge mistakes happen during competition in order to learn the price of procrastination and not working up to their abilities, you know ? We can tell them this until we are blue in the face – but they need to learn it for themselves to KNOW it. And the only way to learn it for themselves – is to sit back – pretend we have duct tape on our mouths – and just let them be.

Interference Is Easy, Avoiding it is a Challenge!

Question: I am wondering how much help can we give them. For instance, can we help them paint, color, cut, glue, etc? Or do they have to do it all? I mean if they design the object, can we help them get it's form?

Answer: Destination Imagination is a "challenge" for team managers and parents, too, because we are really used to "helping" our kids, as in boy scouts and budding scientists with their projects. The short answer is "DON'T!" Helping them do something or showing them how to do it is interference.

The DI Roadmap explains for team members and for managers exactly WHAT interference is and how to steer clear. I go over this with the team at the very beginning and make sure their parents understand, too.

The long answer is, The help you CAN provide is a place where the kids can experiment and build, access to the resources they need and time to do it. Solutions in Destination Imagination are entirely the children's work. ENTIRELY…that's the tough part. That means you can't hold the wood while they saw, you can't tell them it would be a little stronger if they'd put hot glue in the joint, you can't suggest painting the cardboard box yellow, etc. etc.

One team manager told me that she drew the line at safety: if the children "needed" to use a piece of power equipment that she didn't think they could safely operate, then she'd do that piece for them.

BUZZZZZ! That's a wrong answer. If the kids can't do something safely, they need to invent or create a way to solve it that is safe and up to their skill level. Or do something else entirely. If they determine they need to cut wood, for example, you can give them (or have someone else give them) a lesson in sawing safely and accurately. BUT you may not give the lesson on the exact wood that they will use in their solution. That piece of wood needs to be measured and cut BY THE TEAM ONLY. (You can however, drive them to the lumber yard or the scrap wood alley and drive them back after they pick out what they need. Or they can tell you they need XYZ specific kind/size of wood and you can get it for them.)

I remind them a lot "this is YOUR solution" and everything the audience and judges see will represent their work, their ideas and their creativity. My team knows they can give ME a warning if they think I'm stepping over the interference line.

Subject: Is This Interference?

Question: Some of you more experienced hands help me out, please. I built two balsa structures (part of Triplicity solution) for my team to test in our crusher – NOT to be used in their solution itself (in fact I wrote TEST all over them in magic marker to invalidate them). The sample structures were built according to their plans, and they used the results of the crusher tests as confirmation that their plan was good enough to suit them and proceeded to build their own, slightly different structures to use at the tournament. Those structures, the ones that'll be in the tournament, were built entirely and only by team members. I think this is not interference – what do y'all think?

Response: YES, it is absolutely interference. Let me explain why……When you do ANY part of the solution for the kids, you are literally stealing the opportunity for them to learn from what they are doing and even when they fail at doing something, they learn…and usually more than they would have if it all worked out fine the first time. I know it was their design…but as your hands did the cutting and gluing, did they learn how to hold the blade just right? Glue just enough, get the feel of the wood and how it holds together? Why it works when you press it just this way…but doesn't when you do that?

The learning is IN THE DOING. You can teach them the skills of how to safely use a tool…how to use a sewing machine for costumes, or how to do other skills that THEY have decided that they need to know in order to create their vision of what they want…but it MUST come from them. It is their experience in DI, not yours…they own this…not you. Think of yourself as their 'Guide on the Side.'

Believe me, I know how frustrating it can be to stand by and watch them do something (while talking and horsing around) that would take you 5 minutes and they are going on three hours…and I have had moments when I had to walk outside and even once I locked myself in the bathroom! But if I had interfered, they would have lost that opportunity to learn time management, and to feel the true satisfaction of “We did it ALL ourselves!”

The trial and error part of this PROCESS is key to their learning experience. Please help them to take these life skills and make them their own.

You also have the opportunity of teaching them honesty. When your team goes to competition, please make sure that when you sign the Team Declaration, that you show them that you all honestly write down that their team has had outside interference, and exactly what it was.

I am very glad that you wrote. It shows that you truly want your team to go by the rules, to learn what this program has to teach, and for you to understand what we have to offer as well.

Interference Examples–Team Supplies and Materials

It would be interference to listen to the kids plan, say, a costume, then say, "I have just the thing for the headpiece," and drag out that old steam iron that no longer works. It would even be interference to say, "When you get around to planning costumes, I have a box of old fabric you're welcome to use." It would NOT be interference for you to give the team a tour of your stuff, pointing out that you have many things around the house that they're welcome to use. Just do it in a general way, saying, "If you think of a use for this or these or those, then you're welcome to them." It's good to do this before they've laid a lot of plans––too easy to GUIDE them to use something if they've already gotten ideas about what they need to make. Do it early, and avoid suggesting WHAT things can be used for. Just offer them for use.

[If you can, designate a place for storing these items and let them know anything in that location is theirs to take. I strongly suggest you have them check with you before they use anything you have lying around. If you don't do this, your brand new sofa cushion or tablecloth or vacuum cleaner will suddenly turn up (dismantled or painted, of course) in their presentation. BELIEVE THIS!]

The key here is that it is interference to provide specific materials intended for use by the team for a specific purpose. It is also interference to suggest materials they might acquire for specific purposes. It is NOT interference to provide a stack of raw materials for which there might be many different uses, as long as you refrain from making suggestions about those uses. Many teams use fabric, paints, glitter, glue, tools, old motors, cardboard, wood, etc., sometimes in surprising ways. Providing these general–purpose things is part of the team manager's job, in my opinion and not interference. It is also NOT interference to say, "What kinds of things do you think you could use for that?"––even to suggest they look around them for ideas––as long as you haven't carefully "seeded" their supplies with things you think they should use.

Safety / Interference

An important point to make here is that it is not the intent of DI to force young kids to do dangerous things by themselves. If they have designed a solution which they cannot build safely without adult assistance, then what they must do is to modify their design (or scrap it altogether) and come up with something which they can build safely.

There is a tendency for the adults to want to jump in and help the kids with the sawing or the drilling because the kids are just too young and inexperienced to use the devices safely. You must understand that it is still interference.

Safety comes first, but the correct response to a design which can't be built safely is NOT for the adults to do it, it is for the kids to modify the design or to use simpler tools.

You also may be surprised at what the kids can do if you take the time to train them on the tool and how to use it safely. When you're done, not only can the kids be proud that they accomplished a difficult task by themselves, but you'll have taught them a skill they'll use for the rest of their lives.

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