FARMINGTON — A number of schools from around San Juan County are celebrating victories at a state competition dedicated to teamwork and creative problem solving.

Students from the Aztec, Bloomfield, Farmington and Central Consolidated school districts competed at the state competition for Destination Imagination earlier this month.

The nonprofit runs a Challenges program in which students compete in teams and tackle one of the seven challenges on a local, state and international level.

At the state competition in Albuquerque on April 6, about 45 percent of the teams competing came from San Juan County schools, said Emily Foose, regional director for Destination Imagination.

"I believe that speaks highly of this program and how we are growing and the excitement and interest teachers have here," Foose said.

Aztec schools won four state championships, with three awarded to Park Avenue Elementary and one awarded to C.V. Koogler Middle School.

One team from Mesa Alta Junior High School in Bloomfield took first place.

A team from Farmington High School took second place but will compete at nationals because the first place team declined to compete.

The Destination Imagination Global Falls is set for May 22 to 25 in Knoxville, Tenn.

At Park Avenue Elementary, Fran Dobey's gifted education class won first place in the In Disguise challenge in the elementary category.


Dobey's class of fourth-graders faced the challenge of telling a story without using words.

They acted out a play using only costumes, masks and set changes.

"It takes great amounts of being able to work together, for sure, and learning how to get along and be creative and think way outside the box," Dobey said.

The class came up with a story based on the 1969 children's book, "Corduroy," which is based on a bear for sale in a department store.

"We kind of came up with choosing this story because we thought of doing a regular old nursery rhyme and putting our own twists in it," said fourth-grader Bailey Kelly. "It was harder to tell the story because we had to use our facial expression to describe something without words, signs and writing."

The students performed a silent play about a little boy who a police officer caught fighting in the street. A fairy then turned the boy into a teddy bear. The bear ended up on a toy store shelf, where he was unhappy until a girl purchased him and made him a nice place to live.

"It was kind of nerve-racking because you don't want to screw it up," said student Justin Vargas.

Dobey said students have been working since January to develop the story, create sets and costumes and determine staging for their story.

Vargas said the students in Dobey's class would not have been able to place at state without her help.

"We could have not landed first without the parent that helped us around and Ms. Dobey," Vargas said. "She helped us come up with the skit and helped us solve our problems."

Karla Harvel, a gifted education teacher at Mesa Alta, helped her team win first in the middle school level for the In Disguise challenge. Harvel said she enjoyed watching her students come together as a group and solve a problem.

"The main thing (Destination Imagination) promotes is encouraging teams to have fun and take a risk and focus on the challenges," she said.

Joshua Kellogg can be reached at; 505-564-4627. Follow him on Twitter