Outreach challenge for DI team
By Angie Landsverk
A Destination Imagination team brightened up a bare wall inside Waupaca’s overnight warming center.
It painted a mural there as part of its project outreach challenge.
The cots in the warming center are located by this wall, and those who stay there now see a sunset before they go to sleep.
“We wanted it to help welcome the people who come here,” said Brooklyn Pio.
Pio, as well as Josue Azuara, Hannah Fischer and Olivia Petrovs, are the four Waupaca Learning Center students who make up this Destination Imagination Team.
“The Cool Cooling Animals” is the name of their team, and Colleen Larson is their coach.
This is the 19th year Larson is coaching a team and the ninth year she is serving as the Waupaca School District’s Destination Imagination coordinator.
Destination Imagination is a program that involves hands-on learning.
It offers challenges in the fields of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), the fine arts and service learning.
The service learning – or project outreach – challenge is designed to engage students in public service to address community issues.
Last November, these students began meeting as a group.
For all of them, it is the first time they are participating in Destination Imagination.
The four students were randomly put together as a team and then needed to choose a challenge.
Initially, the team thought its project would be about recycling due to their concerns about the environment.
A few weeks later, the students decided they wanted their project to involve painting.
They chose to paint a mural at Foundations For Living (FFL).
FFL is a nonprofit located at 1421 Churchill St.
It seeks to provide transitional housing to those in need and operates an overnight warming center.
The center is open from 6:30 p.m. to 8 a.m. every day from October through April.
Up to 12 adult men and women may stay there.
Robin Madson is FFL’s executive director, and Petrovs said she knows Madson, because her mother volunteers at FFL.
After the team decided it wanted to paint a mural at FFL, Fischer brought in a sketch of a sunset.
“We want them to feel warm, welcomed. We wanted to brighten up the space,” she said.
Their project coincided with other work taking place inside the warming center.
That included a new floor, replacement of a garage door with a window, putting up two firewalls and adding new doors and rugs, Madson said.
A grant from Christine and Bob Faulks covered the cost of the new floor, Kolbe & Kolbe donated the window where the garage door was, and a Thrivent project grant paid for the new rugs, she said.
“Torborgs was very kind to us and is also very supportive,” Madson said.
She said they were in the process of redoing the walls in the center when the students brought up the idea of painting a mural.
“It looked all plain – green,” Azuara said of the walls.
The team asked Dort De Wild, a retired Waupaca Middle School art teacher, to help them with the project.
“It helped that Ms. De Wild had done murals with students before,” Larson said.
In mid-December, they started working on it.
At Waupaca Learning Center, a sketch of the sunset was made into a transparency and projected onto contact paper that was taped on a wall.
On Jan. 7, Larson and De Wild worked with the team at FFL.
They put the contact paper on the portion of the wall where they wanted the tree to be.
De Wild taught the students how to mix colors.
They painted hills and a sunset and removed the contact paper after they were done painting to reveal the tree within the mural.
The students worked on the project for more than three hours that day and signed their names on the hills.
With the mural complete, the team is now working on the other aspects of its project outreach challenge.
“They have to have an impact prop to evaluate the impact of the project,” Larson said.
Those who stay at the warming center, go through FFL or shop at its Community Closet express their feelings about the mural on a sheet of paper and place it in a voting box.
The team is also working on its skit for the Destination Imagination competition.
Larson said the students have to include information about their mural project in their skit.
Their skit has to be a fable, and that means it has to include animals and a moral, she said.
The team’s skill is about Arctic animals who are homeless in a rainforest and how a monkey directs them to a cooling center.
A $100 stipend from the school district covers most of the team’s expenses for its props, costumes and scenery materials, Larson said.
The Cool Cooling Team will compete in the northeast regional Destination Imagination tournament on Saturday, March 25, at Waupaca High School.
Destination Imagination also includes state and global competitions.
“I’m very proud of the job you’ve done,” Larson told the students.
Madson said, “I am just so impressed with their willingness, their heart, to do something outside of their school.”
An average of three people are staying at the center each night, she said.
“Everyone who comes in looks at that mural and just marvels at it – that it’s been done by kids,” Madson said. “I’m impressed by their outward thinking, what can we do to make the world a better place.”
Larson expressed her appreciation for the assistance De Wild provided, and the students enjoyed seeing how their mural fits into the space’s new look.
“When they wake up in the morning, they always have to leave by 8 a.m.,” Fischer said. “They can look at it and think, ‘Today is going to be a great day.’”