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Fourth graders are ready to take on the world

There's rarelly a serious moment with the members of Team Squishy Flaming Dictionaries. Team members left to right are Anika Elvrum, Karl Jorgenson, Samira Awad and Henry Johnson. In front are Olivia Beach, Molly Hermann and Gabe Mohs.

Spend a couple of minutes with the members of Diamond Path Elementary School's Squishy Flaming Dictionaries and you realize the biggest challenge of their Destination Imagination competition might have been the fact they weren't allowed to speak while carrying it out.

This is a chatty group of fourth graders.

It's also a pretty creative group. And talented enough to earn a trip to this month's global finals at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.

The Squishy Flaming Dictionaries will compete in the Fine Arts Challenge, one of several open-ended categories that requires competitors to apply science, technology, engineering and math as well as improvisation, theater arts, writing and project management. Their wordless presentation had to tell a story involving three elements -- a disguise, a mask and a morphing mask. In this case, the morphing mask transformed into a disco ball/boom box.

They were allowed to use sound effects, but no onomatopoeia. No "Whoosh!" No "Bam!" No "Pow!"

This is a group of fourth graders that can use onomatopoeia in a sentence. Correctly.

Most of this year's team competed together last year, but they didn't advance past the regional competition. This year, with the addition of one new member and some additional work on their instant challenge -- an improvised piece for which they are given limited time to prepare on the day of the event -- they had a lot more success. They won at regionals, then again at the state competition to earn a trip to the global finals. They are one of just three teams in District 196 to earn the trip.

"We've gotten really a lot better because we've learned to accept other people's opinions and add it on to our big idea," said team member Molly Hermann. "It's been really fun, and we're one big family."

That's one explanation for the team's success. Here's another: "We're all really smart and we have creative minds," team member Olivia Beach said. "We're really funny, too."

If you want to compete against the best in the world, it doesn't pay to be modest.

The students spent five months working on their presentation. Discovering they had won a trip to Knoxville was a thrill.

"Our minds were being set on fire, we were so nervous," Beach said. "All of a sudden they were saying our name and we were jumping up screaming."

The members of the Squishy Flaming Dictionaries -- the name is a combination of words suggested by each of the team members -- need to raise $10,000 to pay for their trip to the global competition. They will hold a Pizza Palooza fundraiser from 5 to 8 p.m. May 15 at Old Chicago in Apple Valley.