Program promotes team work, testing ideas
Although classes had just ended for the school year, some 58 students from Bexley and Columbus were back at it last week -- but this time they left the desks behind.
Instead, they were on the floor tearing apart computers, printers, old record players and radios. They were chiseling out items from inside a frozen balloon, and building launchers that would catapult little rubber ducks high into the air.
It was all part of this year's Camp Invention, hosted once again by the Bexley City School District at Cassingham Elementary School.
While attendance was down, organizers were quick to point out that everyone was learning -- and having fun.
"They are building their background knowledge in the sciences," said Erika Siddiq, a teacher in the Bexley school district and one of the camp's two co-directors. "But at the same time, a lot of other different lessons are being learned."
Tenacity, patience and the art of compromise are just some of the other tools students use when working to invent in small groups of three and four.
Camp Invention encourages students to discover their own innate creativity and inventiveness through hands-on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) content, said the program's other co-director, Jana Clarke, also a teacher in the district.
Students start the day by signing in at Base Camp, then go on to a series of activities such as Eco-verse and Action Atlas Games. Throughout the day, students play games, take apart gadgets and learn how they work, learn how a volcano erupts, make crystal candy, create an invention that will help a youngster get to school in a sand storm and ultimately create a catapult that can launch a duck back to its home pond -- the hands-down favorite among this year's participants.
"(Camp) sort of helps you build with the very few materials you've got," said 8-year-old Maggie Evans, a repeat camper. "It helps you build and create stuff that you never thought would challenge you."
Other students agreed.
"Well, I thought I should learn a couple more things during the summer instead of just going to the pool and losing all my education," said Molly Esque, 9.
Siddiq said that aside from the invention aspect, the camp is all about teamwork -- standing side-by-side with others while solving problems. One team, for example, was working on its duck launch when it suddenly broke. The team members were devastated but knew they had to rebuild.
"When they came back, they realized that in that happening, they were able to build a better invention, which actually was able to launch their duck quite a bit farther," Siddiq said.
"So they were learning many new things you can't script in a curriculum. It's really powerful."
The Camp Invention program was created by the National Inventors Hall of Fame Foundation with support from the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Since its inception in 1990, the program has grown to include more than 1,200 sites in 49 states.
Clarke felt attendance was down in Bexley because of some conflicts with other camps, and that a change in venue might help spark interest in other schools within the district next year.
But it was clear that this year's "inventors" were having a ball.
Lily Keller, 7, said her favorite activity was the duck launcher but she enjoyed participating all week.
"It was really fun because we got to do all different activities and we got to do lots of experiments."
Nicholas Sharp, 8, who participated for the first time this year, said the camp would prove to be fun.
There's no book learning here, he said.
"You take your own creative mind and you get to build stuff," he said while showing off his All-Weather Sand Bunker made out of cardboard and other scraps.