HOWLAND - Howland schools will be among the many districts in the area showcasing students' creativity during the upcoming Destination Imagination regional contest in March at Youngstown State University.
The Destination Imagination program encourages teams of learners to have fun, take risks, have patience and focus on a selected challenge while incorporating science, technology, engineering, mathematics - STEM - and the arts.
To help guide the teams, many area parents serve as coaches. Students work together and break down a challenge, showing what each student's strengths are.
Howland residents Stavros and Koula Anastasiades are co-coaches for two Destination Imagination marking their second year as coaches. One team at the primary level is from Howland Glen for kindergarten to second grade, and the second team from H.C. Mines School of grades third to fifth.
Stavros Anastasiades said the teams received information last fall on the challenges for each grade level and began preparing for the regional competition to be held March 15 at YSU.
If a team is successful at the regional level, it advances to the state level in April, and if successful there, advances to the globals in May.
Cindy Baer, a Howland teacher and the regional co-regional tournament coordinator for DI, said Howland has had teams advance to the global finals in recent years.
She said the students at the primary level do not compete, but take part to gain experience at the regional event.
Baer said the primary grades see their older siblings involved in DI and also want to get involved and start at non-competitive level.
This year, Howland schools has 12 teams involved with DI - 10 competing and two at the primary level not competing.
Stavros Anastasiades said teams have eight months to prepare a solution to their challenge, which they will present to the judges.
The challenges include technical, scientific, structural, fine arts, improvisational and service-learning themes.
He said all the intermediate-level team members have experience with DI and competed before.
Mila Griffith, a team member, said "It is fun because you get to create your own story and you can be creative and do what you basically what you want as long as you are following the guidelines."
Griffith said the most challenging part is coming up with a story and a script in a short period of time.
Baer said DI teams have come from Howland, Niles and Youngstown, and from Trumbull, Mahoning and Ashtabula counties.
She said Novelis Neighbors is a new outreach and is a corporate sponsor for the Howland teams, helping to cover memberships since it includes STEM.
"Howland has really kept the program going. We have had teams through high-school age,'' she said.
Koula Anastasiades said the primary level group is doing a challenge based on the circus, three acts using different shapes.
Baer said the younger children do get some feedback on what they did so they have an idea what the experience will be like when they continue in DI.
Baer said DI Region 1 would like to have more schools involved, noting how much STEM is incorporated into the program.
"The children had a lot of fun last year and decided to be part of this year. We were really amazed at the ideas the children came up with. They really use their imagination,'' Koula Anastasiades said.