NEW HAMPTON — Mika Austin looked sad Tuesday as she stood in a fish-web jail, having been "Offishally Caught" by Rilyeana Barney, Sydnee Hahn, Jazmin Ivers and Noah Eckert — the fish detectives.
But she wasn't sad.
"I'm acting!" said Mika, a second-grader at New Hampton Community School, who was rehearsing with her friends on the school's Destination Imagination team, which is called "Fishers."
The team took first place in the state Destination Imagination tournament last month, winning in the Laugh Art Loud, Elementary Level category. More than 100 teams from schools in the state competed at the tournament in Nashua on March 29.
The Fishers team will advance with 39 other winning groups from the state to compete with over 1,300 other teams from around the world at the Destination Imagination Global Finals at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, Tenn., on May 21.
Destination Imagination is an organization dedicated to teaching students the essential skills of creativity, teamwork, and problem-solving. Destination Imagination officials say traditional education is in urgent need of complementary programs focused on teaching students how to be "world-class innovators and critical thinkers."
Destination Imagination programs provide "hands-on and minds-on" experiences, learning how to communicate their experiences to others.
The New Hampton students developed their own play about a person who steals a prized fish, only to be caught and put in jail while the fish detectives return the fish to its owner.
Their teacher and director, Holly Cook, said developing the play was a challenge for the Fishers, who are mostly second-graders. They also have to rehearse each day, and deal with consequences of daily changes, such as having one person less to perform with, as they did Tuesday when team member Kamryn Batchelder was not there.
"We had to try out for this, and we were chosen from all the kids in our school, all of whom are my friends," said Rilyeana Barney. "We get to create our own stuff, we make all the props for our play."
Noah Eckert, the only fourth-grader to make the team, said he learned woodworking skills in making some of the stage props.
"Do you know how hard it is to make a triangular frame?" he asked adults present at the rehearsal.
The students and adults on the Fishers' team have a bigger challenge now: Raising $15,000 to pay for the team's trip to Tennessee next month. So far, they've only raised about $2,000. Donations can be mailed to the New Hampton Community School, 191 Main St., New Hampton, N.H. 03256.