June 11, 2014 - By Meg Peters
Review Staff Writer
"The Chaos Kids," a team of fifth grade students from St. Joseph School in Lake Orion, won third place in the Global Finals 2014 Destination Imagination competition with their project on learning disabilities.
Destination Imagination is a non-profit organization that challenges students to use their creativity to solve learning challenges using the arts, service learning, and STEM process, involving science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
The team beat out 1,700 other school groups who began the season in their challenge "Pitch and Play" and approximately 90 other teams who made it to Globals in their division May 21-24 in Knoxville, TN.
They won the famed DaVinci Award characterizing their outstanding creativity and spirit of adventurous risk presented in their solutions.
On Friday, June 6 the team presented their award-winning skit to Clear Lake Elementary in Oxford where Oxford students had a chance to experienc the Chaos Kid's underlying message, setting them apart in the competition.
Three of the five St. Joe's students have learning disabilities, either slow learning processes, dyslexia, or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
Thus the teams' goal was to teach teachers and students what it feels like to operate in a classroom with a learning disability.
"Teachers typically know about dyslexia and ADHD from a medical standpoint but they don't know what kids experience," coach and team member mom Sarah Johnson said.
Competing in Destination Imagination allowed the team to shine in a different learning environment.
"Kids that have a learning disability have a difficult time in a traditional classroom because it's time based. They have only so much time to get the assignment done or to understand the concept," Johnson said. "So DI allowed them to have success they have never experienced before."
In order to demonstrate their difficulties as learners, the team created a carnival for other students at St. Joe's to participate in, a skit presented at the local, regional and global competition, and an evaluation.
Each of the five games in the carnival represented a perceptual experience of what it feels like to learn.
One game used a helmet with a train driving around its perimeter. Attached to the train was glittery fringe that temporarily blocked the student's vision to represent a visual distraction. The student was required to read a paragraph and at the end answer questions about what he or she had read.
"The point was to demonstrate that sometimes you have a visual distraction and other times you don't," Johnson said. "It's like you check in and check out."
Her son Emmett Johnson developed a duck-race game to illustrate how a student with a slow learning process feels in class.
He took two tubes, one filled with blue water the other filled with blue dish soap, and put a rubber duck in each. The student was asked a question, which was written on the duck, and flipped the tube over like an hourglass to retrieve the answer. Although the answer on both ducks was correct, the duck passing through dish soap took a longer time to deliver the answer.
"It's not about lacking intelligence. It's about how information is transmitted," Johnson said. "Can you imagine being in school and feel like you are always behind, slow or dumb?"
The team also developed a skit that was presented at the regional, state and global competition.
In their skit students would give examples of the different visual and auditory distractions, such as students walking down the hallway or a pencil tapping.
Also apart of the skit was a song they wrote to the tune of the popular YouTube video "What does the fox say."
"The Fox" is an electronic dance song that went viral after the Norwegian comedy duo Ylvis uploaded it online.
St. Joe students mimicked the sound with their own words.
"Questions are asked, I'm sure I know, but my brain is moving way to slow. Room is silent, waiting for me. Slow processing is the key. What do I feel like? Dumb-dumb-dumb-dumb-dumb-dumb-dumb."
"These songs are one of the reasons I think they won because they impressed the judges with how in tune they were to what they were feeling," Johnson said.
According to judges' comments, the students' messages stuck out.
"Very inspiring, should be mandatory for all to see." "That was an amazing display of what it is like to have a learning challenge." "You have made a huge impact on seeing abilities in all students. So impressed!"
The Chaos Kids took home a huge trophy, but more importantly the satisfaction of successfully engaging their fellow students and teachers in a topic not often understood from both sides of the coin.