Students will travel to international tourney

Joshua Kellogg
Sixth-graders Isabella Chavez, left, Patarawarin Paphawasith, Sloan Tafoya, Devyn Gamboa, Katherine Flores and Aubrie Lybrook pose for a photo on Thursday at Hermosa Middle School.

FARMINGTON – Area students will travel to Tennessee later this month to participate in an international academic competition after San Juan County schools dominated the state competition earlier this year.

Teams from the Aztec, Bloomfield and the Farmington Municipal school districts, and the Mosaic Academy charter school will travel to the Destination Imagination Global Finals May 25-28 in Knoxville, Tenn.

The nonprofit organization organizes competitions across the world to challenge students to work together to creatively solve challenges.

San Juan County schools won nine of 15 challenges held at the state tournament on March 12 at the Bosque School​ in Albuquerque.

Students in Farmington schools won first place in four challenges. Aztec and Bloomfield students each took first place in two challenges, and Mosaic Academy students took first place in one challenge, according to the results posted to the New Mexico Destination Imagination website.

The Hermosa Middle School 6 Sirens team won the middle school service learning challenge called “The Meme Event.” The Hermosa team is being joined by teams from Ladera Del Norte Elementary and Mesa View Middle schools at the global finals.

Gifted teacher Amber Alexander said the sixth-grade students were looking for a project when the team members met Paphawasith Patarawarin, a transfer student from Thailand, who joined the school in January. The team decided to work with Patarawarin and teach her words and phrases in English, team member Sloan Tafoya said.

“We taught her English phrases like ‘Please,’ ‘Thanks’ and ‘I need help,’” Tafoya said.

The 6 Sirens also taught Patarawarin about American teen culture, according to Alexander.

“They talked about boys, clothes, hairstyles and makeup. All the stuff young girls like to talk about,” Alexander said.

Patarawarin is still working to understand the English language as she spends time in an English language learner classes, Alexander said. The team also researched part of Patarawarin’s culture by learning about the Songkran Festival, a New Year celebration in Thailand.

“We felt like it would be an awesome thing to do,” Isabella Chavez said.

The team won two awards, including the Da Vinci award for outstanding creativity at the state tournament.

Teams in Aztec are also preparing for the international competition with the DI Tunes team from Park Avenue Elementary set for the elementary school “Musical Mashup” structural challenge.

Neily Snook, team sponsor and third-grade teacher at Lydia Rippey Elementary in Aztec, said the team of fifth-grade students is ready to compete.

In the “Musical Mashup” challenge, teams must build a device that weighs 21 grams that can function as a musical instrument and then support 500 pounds of weight on top of it. The team built a structure to support the weight and function as a drum.

Snook said she loves seeing the students trying to think outside the box when tackling the challenges.

“As long as it doesn’t say it in the rule book, they are allowed to do it,” Snook said. “We are so excited to give the children an opportunity to shine.”

Snook credited the Aztec enrichment teachers for supporting the students and Park Avenue teacher Fran Dobey for coaching the five teams that competed at the state tournament.

It’s the first time in four years that a team from Mosaic Academy has competed at the global finals, team coach Patty Paul said.

“It’s fantastic. The school is very behind the kids. They are excited,” Paul said.

Team MATT — comprised of one seventh-grade student and three fourth-grade students — took first place in the middle school “In Plain Sight” scientific challenge.

Paul said the biggest thing the team members had to learn was cooperation, and they learned quickly to work together.

“The three fourth-graders are extremely mature for their age,” Paul said.

Those interested in making donations to the teams can call the respective school for more information.

Joshua Kellogg covers education for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627.