Lakeside Elementary teachers Arthur Williams and Emma Echols coach the school's Destination Imagination team, which won first place in the national Destination Imagination competition this spring.
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Lakeside Elementary's Destination Imagination team won first place in the national Destination Imagination competition this spring.

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Korianna Lewis helped write the musical. The fourth-grader at Lakeside Elementary also made her costume, attaching paper music notes to her dress. She and her five classmates practiced and practiced for their big performance at the statewide Destination Imagination competition.

And they won!

This is the first year Lakeside Elementary has competed in a Destination Imagination competition, which aims to foster students' creative problem-solving skills. The competition blends arts and science by requiring students to write and perform a musical and also design and build a wooden musical instrument that can hold weight.

Emma Echols, a music teacher at Lakeside who started the team, said she never expected the group of six students to win the regional and state competition the first year and have the opportunity to travel to the global competition.

But Korianna was more confident.

"I always thought our team would win," she said.

Echols said she couldn't be more proud of the students. It took a lot of hard work to get to the Nashville tournament on April 9 because students are required to create everything they use during the competitions.

"We can only model how to do things for them," Echols said. "So we would say things like, 'Here, this is how you use wood glue,' and then watch as they did it."

Despite all the preparation, Echols said there were hurdles getting to the competition. The bus broke down halfway through the trip, making the team hours late.

"But once we got there everyone was so helpful and bent over backwards to let us compete," Echols said. "And I was so proud of the kids. They met each challenge with such resilience."

As the team performed their musical, it was third-grader Maliki Lee's job to place the weights on top of the wooden instrument the team had made.

Maliki said he wasn't nervous as he stacked more than 480 pounds on top of the small wooden guitar-like instrument without it breaking, which helped the team win the competition.

As the group was traveling home on the bus, Echols said, one of the competition judges called and asked to be placed on speakerphone. As the Lakeside team members listened, the judge said they had won first place, giving them a spot in the global competition in Knoxville May 25-28.

"We all got excited and was laughing," Korianna said.

Now, though, the team needs to raise $730 for each team member to compete.

Echols said this is far more than the families of these kids can pay, but she and fellow team leader Arthur Williams, who also teaches at Lakeside, are optimistic the money will come.

Williams said no matter what happens next for the team, he thinks it's been a great opportunity for the kids and he hopes to have a team again next year.

"It's so hands-on and the kids are solving problems," Williams said. "It's expanding what they learn in the classroom. And it's really, really fun."