Posted on May 06, 2014

Hundreds of school children from across Qatar pitted their creative, innovative and imaginative talents against each other when they competed for the much-coveted first-place in the various Challenges performed at the National Finals of the international education programme Destination ImagiNation (DI) on 3rd May. The dynamic life-skills initiative, brought to Qatar by Alfaisal Without Borders (Alf) Foundation, nears the end of a first year pilot in Qatar and has been a resounding success, with pupils and teachers praising the significant personal and social benefits the programme has given to Qatar’s youth. It underlines Qatar’s ambition to be seen as a leader in innovative education initiatives.

To enter the National Finals, the teams chose from five different challenge themes – technical, scientific, fine arts, improvisational and service learning – researched their ideas and developed ideas to solve the challenges. They named their teams accordingly.

The winning teams per challenge theme, who will now be jetting off to the DI Global Finals in Knoxville, Tennessee, USA at the end of May, were: The ‘Alpha Ducks’ team, from Newton International Academy, Barwa City won the Technical Challenge. The Scientific Challenge prize went to the ‘Sci-Fi’ team from Newton International Academy, Barwa City.  The Fine Arts Challenge saw the ‘DI Enlighteners’ team coming in first from Gulf English School.  The Improvisation Challenge was a triumph for the ‘7 Awesome Kids’ team from Newton International Academy, Barwa City.  Finally the Service Learning Challenge Project Outreach was a victory for the ‘Fluffy Nephews’ team from Newton International Academy, Barwa City.

Winning GES team member, Rein Serrano, said: “I really liked the teamwork because it helped us to get closer together and act like a team.”

Abasifreke Aniedi, winner from Newton International Academy, Barwa City, enthused: “This was our first year participating in DI and it was quite challenging at times, but we tried our best and made it through to first place in our challenge category!”

Hosted by Gulf English School, the DI National Finals saw more than 230 primary and secondary pupils competing in 34 teams from seven independent and international Doha schools for the title of Qatar National Destination ImagiNation Champion. The motivation and prize was the opportunity to represent Qatar in the DI Global Finals which will be held in Knoxville, Tennessee, USA at the end of May.

Around 500 people attended the DI National Finals, during which each team had eight minutes to present their challenge solution to volunteer judges, their families and their peers. Teams were marked on their creativity, originality, workmanship, effort and overall quality of final presentation. Teams were also given a previously unseen Instant Challenge and for this had  five minutes to complete it and present it to judges.

DI focuses on empowering young people by instilling and enhancing vital 21st Century skills that can give them the confidence they need in later life. Throughout the past four months, students have been working in teams to solve practical challenges in preparation for exhibiting and discussing their solutions in front of judges at the National Finals.

Alf Foundation, a not-for-profit organization founded by Qatari entrepreneur Sheikh Faisal bin Qassim Al Thani, plans to roll out the DI programme to more schools across Qatar in the coming year, and ultimately to the wider Gulf region.

The internationally-renowned programme, which operates in 27 countries, fosters a spirit of innovation among young people, by encouraging creativity, team-work and leadership to enhance their self-esteem and communication skills to give them a head start in life.

Destination ImagiNation National Finals 2 [].jpgApproved by the Supreme Council of Education in Qatar, DI also instils an appreciation for other cultures and beliefs, while respecting the values of Islamic teaching in line with the Qatar National Vision 2030 and the ALF Foundation’s ethos. Through supporting programmes like DI, ALF wants to position Qatar as a regional innovator in progressive education, dedicated to arming young people with the right skills to succeed in today’s ever-changing world.

As they competed in the National Finals, the teams sharpened their imaginative and creative skills. Through participation in DI, pupils had also discovered hidden acting talents, boosted their confidence and self-expression as they learnt to understand the value of collaboration, team work and time management.

Yusef Al Naeemi, Year 6, from Omar bin Khattab Independent Primary School for Boys, said: “DI has made me discover that I can act – I had no encouragement or support in this before. I have also learned the importance of collaboration and team work and how to accomplish tasks in a short time.”

Bilquis Khan, 11, from Newton International School, Barwa City, said: “DI has made me more confident in expressing myself in front of others. It has also helped me to work better with others and has enhanced my creativity. DI has enabled me to explore my creative side – a side I never thought I had! The team work aspect taught me if everyone works together, you can accomplish anything. I am very proud to have been in Destination ImagiNation.”

DI coordinator Pauline Penney, also from Newton International School Barwa City, described how DI had benefitted her pupils. She said: “DI is an amazing journey and it has been a privilege to have been part of this. Sharing the highs and lows of teams, watching them grow and develop in their roles, working on their failures and celebrating their successes is at times an emotional path.

“The skills the children have developed have exceeded my expectations and it is wonderful to see them grow personally and socially and develop into confident, articulate and creative young adults.”

Under the patronage of Sheikh Faisal bin Qassim al Thani’s Alf Foundation, DI presents the richness of Qatari culture and empowers the nation’s school children and students to set goals for the future and to take control of their own destiny through self-motivation.

Alf Foundation General Manager Abdullatif Al-Yafei said: “One of the cornerstones of the Foundation is educational empowerment of Qatar’s youth to become talented and capable future leaders. This pilot year of DI has been a resounding success. The feedback we have had from the participating schools, pupils and teachers has been overwhelmingly positive and it has been inspiring to see how the pupils have developed personally, socially and educationally through taking part in DI. They have learned crucial skills which will stand them in great stead through the rest of their lives and we look forward to expanding the programme to many more schools in Qatar in the coming year.”

The seven schools piloting the program in Qatar were:

  • Amna bint Wahab Independent Preparatory School for Girls
  • The Gulf English School
  • Newton International Academy, Barwa City
  • Newton International School, Lagoon
  • Noble International School
  • Omar bin Al Khattab Independent Primary School for Boys
  • Park House English School