Sevastopol DI Teams Think Outside the Box

The first place Destination ImagiNation team from Sevastopol Middle School. In front, from left, Madie Laaksonen, Jacob Cater, Bennett Rabach (holding “Flat Kori,” a picture co-team manager Kori Zawojski, who was unable to attend the global even in Nashville; In back, co-team manager Annie Rabach, Nathan Spohn, Eric Ott and Ty Zawojski.

A team of six Sevastopol Middle School students proved themselves to be world-class problem solvers by taking a first place trophy in the Destination ImagiNation Globals held last week in Knoxville, Tenn.

DI, as it is known, tests students to work as a team and think creatively. Three Sevastopol teams – the middle schoolers and two elementary teams – won regional competitions in March to advance to the state competition held in Stevens Point, and then moved on to the Globals.

The Sevastopol Middle School team bested 72 other teams in Knoxville. When they call this competition “Globals,” they mean it for the second place team was from Beijing, China.

“It’s a big win for our school,” said fourth grade teacher Kathy Marshall, a DI coordinator at Sevastopol. “They won a part of the competition where the students go into an environment and they have to think creatively and spontaneously and find a solution. They are assessed on their teamwork and on their solutions. Our middle school team won that level. That really says a lot. They won it at state and then went on to repeat that performance at Globals. An amazing task.”

Team members are Madie Laaksonen, Jacob Cater, Bennett Rabach, Nathan Spohn, Eric Ott and Ty Zawojski. The team was coached by Annie Rabach and Kori Zawojski.

Kori Zawojski is in her third year as co-coach of her son Ty’s team.

“This is his fifth year competing,” she said. “He just loves it. It’s a lot of work and it’s a lot of fun. The kids really enjoy competing and solving the problems. They learn a lot of good life skills, working as a team, solving the problems.”

An example of the problem-solving abilities of this team showed up when they learned they were going to Globals. Being the owner of Sunnypoint Gardens and Gift Shop in Egg Harbor, Kori was unable to travel to Knoxville with the team, but the kids brought her along in the form of a paper doll they called “Flat Kori.”

Asked what the secret of the team’s success is, Kathy Marshall said it’s a combination of things.

“This team is able to think creatively, outside the box and find a solution,” she said. “The other part is that we practice a lot. The teams meet two times a week and every Saturday until first competition, which is in March. I think it’s the consistent pattern, working toward a common goal. And it’s the coaches’ dedication. They come back year after year and are familiar with the program. They can build on that and get right to work.”

She also points out that there were three strong teams from Sevastopol. The two elementary teams that went to Globals took seventh and 50th place.

“I’m excited about all three of them,” she said. “The kids, even those in seventh place and 50th place are excited. They know the level of competition they are up against. The elementary team competed against 76 teams and the other elementary team competed against 77. Each of those teams are state or country champions.”

Sevastopol has been involved in Destination ImagiNation since 1986, with 193 teams participating in that time, and 96 of those went on to State and 38 advanced to Globals, with nine first place wins.

“You don’t have to be athletic to be on a DI team,” Marshall said. “It’s not just for gifted and talented. Anyone can join.”

She added that one of the schools in the Baylake region is dropping out of DI due to budget constraints.

“We’re lucky to have the support of administration and the school board. We want them to know how much we appreciate the support,” Marshall said. “We truly appreciate the support of our DI parents. Without their tremendous support of our fundraising activities, the competition in Knoxville would have been impossible. Part of our program’s success here at Sevastopol can be attributed to the support we receive by our entire Sevastopol community.”

An elementary team from Gibraltar also went to Knoxville and finished 24th in the world.