On a Wednesday afternoon, seven middle schoolers are in a classroom at DeWitt Middle School using arts and crafts tools to create a set for their presentation, and creatively thinking about solutions to challenges their team leader gives them.
Destination Imagination is an international non-profit organization whose mission is to encourage students to be innovative thinkers, through STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Fine Arts and Mathematics) activities.
“We encourage the teams to use the creative process in their problem solving,” Abby Goldman, regional director of Central NY DI, said. “Once the team has decided on a solution and begins to work on it, they inevitably hit some stumbling blocks and have to figure out how to modify their plans and accommodate changes to their original plans.”
The idea of encouraging students to actively make choices, make mistakes and learn from them, is one of the reasons mom and team manager Lauren Loiacono decided to start up “The Flaming Fries”.
After learning about the organization at a local STEM night presentation from DI, Loiacono decided to ask around at Dewitt Middle School and Caroline Elementary to see if students would be interested in joining.
Currently the team is working on a service learning challenge for their regional showcase in which they are inspiring the community through social media to be “all weather active”.
Emma Loiacono, a sixth grader from Dewitt and member of “The Flaming Fries”, said the group came up with their idea after meeting with the mayor of Ithaca, Svante Myrick, and the superintendent of the school district, Dr. Luvelle Brown.
“We asked them about a problem a problem that was specific to Ithaca,” Loiacono said. “We decided that people are less active in the winter or when it’s rainy outside, so we met up with people from around the community and filmed videos with them being active.
“It’s #allweatheractive because no matter what the weather is, you can find a way to move around,” Loiacono said.
Loiacono has the right idea according to President and CEO of the Medical Fitness Association, Bob Boone.
“Any movement is beneficial, even just standing up from time to time is good for the circulation,” Boone said. “And, exercise should be fun, so whatever people like to do and video [like what The Flaming Fries have produced] should be a great motivator to others who watch it.”
“The Flaming Fries” aren’t the first to endeavor into using technology to encourage physical activity in people. Since the 1990s the MFA has been try to incorporate technology into their campaigns for exercise and Boone said recent technologies like FitBits and mobile phone pedometer apps are making it easier for people to be more conscious of their physical activity.
“The mobile technology now available has 2 primary motivation purposes in my opinion: The device provides instant feedback so the individual gets immediate reinforcement,” he said. “Many of the devices also allow what once many people saw as mundane exercise to be gamified… We have found this to be highly motivational as well as these types of activity add fun to the otherwise routine activities of exercise – particularly in the winter months.”
After the regional showcase in March, the team will advance to a state competition in April and potentially make another appearance at the Global Finals in Knoxville, Tennessee.