Seven students from the private GreenMount School in
will travel Tuesday to Knoxville, Tenn., to compete in an international problem-solving competition.
The team – dubbed Soul Seven – participates in Destination Imagination, a program that presents challenges to students, from kindergarten through college, and judges their solutions on effectiveness and creativity.
The competition has six categories: technical, scientific, fine arts, improvisational, structural and community service. A team chooses a category and then, in the months leading up to the competition, solves that category's challenge.
Each team can spend $125 on its solution, but there are sometimes stipulations on what materials they may use (only paper clips and duct tape, for example).
Soul Seven selected the fine-arts category, "Coming Attractions," which required creating a 4-minute live "movie trailer" that involves characters from two nations and includes a student-designed cinematic special effect and an original soundtrack.
Since October, team members have been working on their trailer, an enactment of Native American children in the Lakota tribe being forced into European-style boarding schools and being stripped of their culture in the late 1800s. The team went to the Smithsonian in Washington to research the topic. Students said what they learned there about Pennsylvania's Carlisle Indian Industrial School, in particular, brought to mind a dramatic, suspenseful movie.
For their special effect, team members built a "shadow box" that serves as a backdrop to the students acting in the trailer; during a scene where a Native American girl is ordered to cut her hair, the shadows behind her show a ponytail being cut off.
The soundtrack features drumming and Native American chanting. The trailer is called "The Disturbing Truth."
Jeffrey Obike, a 12-year-old student from Baltimore's Perring Loch neighborhood, said he originally liked the idea of a fiction trailer with a car racing scene.
"I never even thought of the Native American story," he said. "But we did some research on the Lakota nation and added some of our own information."
One of Jeffrey's teammates, Chloe Bates, 13, from Canton, said she likes Destination Imagination not just because of its educational aspects, but the social side as well.
"My favorite part of it is hanging out with my friends," Chloe said. "We spend a lot of time together and share a lot of experiences."
Linda Pietila, the team's manager and mother of two girls on the team, said she enjoys the competitions because the students solve the problems in so many different ways.
"It really opens the kids up to what can be accomplished," she said.
Jeffrey said the competition allows students to "think outside the box."
"Whatever they don't say you can't do, you can do it," he said.
Tess Pietila, 12, said the program challenges the team to think creatively.
"It's hard work, but it's fun hard work," she said. "We made a dress out of duct tape. You end up taking something you wouldn't normally use and making something."
About 100,000 students in 30 countries take part in Destination Imagination, according to the program. More than 8,000 students whose teams won local competitions are expected at the Global Finals competition, which runs through Saturday.
GreenMount's head of school, Steve Warner, said this is the first year GreenMount students have competed in Destination Imagination. It works well with the school's mission of molding students intellectually and creatively, he said.
"It's a good fit for GreenMount School," Warner said. "There are a lot of problems in the world today. With the advances in knowledge, medicine, technology, a problem-solving approach will help these kids."