Over the winter break we scheduled two “extra” meetings that were completely optional, since some kids had other plans for their winter break and we didn’t want them to feel torn about being here for the meetings. This was just time when the kids could get together and keep working on their solution, but not such structured meetings that those who weren’t there missed out on key skill-building.
The relaxed atmosphere seemed to really help their motivation! They made a lot of progress on their story, just by talking about the various scenes they wanted to include. We were so relieved to see that a few of the kids continually referred to the “Think Like An Appraiser” poster we had made and hung on the wall… they were evaluating their ideas against the criteria for a good story. Making progress on their story excited them, and got them thinking about other exciting parts of DI like Team Choice Elements (TCEs). It was fun to watch one kid grab a notebook and start drawing the designs for his ideas.
Upon resuming our regular meeting schedule after the break, we learned that one of the team members who had not been away for 2 weeks had spent part of his winter break making a specific prop for the story! He really put a lot of work into it, and a lot of trial and error to make it do what he wanted it to do… and his Mom proudly took lots of photos and videos of his initiative. The team was so excited to see him walk in with this thing they had talked about early on. He is really proud of what he did, and he has inspired others to get going on some of their particular passions outside of DI meetings as well. We don’t require that the kids do a lot of DI “homework”, but we certainly don’t mind if they decide to use their free time on DI, either!
We have 8 more meetings until the Regional tournament. Of course, we are pretty anxious to get everything done in what now seems to be a very short time, but after two years of panicking at this point we know they will find a way to pull it off and be proud of their solution in March. Two years ago they were completely absorbed in figuring out how to incorporate a giant slug into their solution (they were just CONVINCED the appraisers would find “Slugzilla” so cool that they would win), and last year about this time they were whining and complaining about having to “do work” on the weekends. Both years we were pretty discouraged in January, got our hopes up in February, and hardly slept in March as they worked day and night to pull it off. We’re hoping to change that pattern, and so far we are pretty happy with how January is going!