New Castle News

June 29, 2013

Camp Invention lures kids back to school

Kurt Stalma
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — Think it’s impossible to excite elementary students about math and science during the summer?

You may want to reconsider.

Just ask the students who attended Camp Invention this week at Neshannock Elementary School.

Justin Lockley, a fifth-grade student from Neshannock, said he had a great time.

“I saw all these cool things about the camp, and it sounded really fun so I signed up,” Justin said.

Camp Invention, a program provided by Invent Now, is a national program that aims to teach students about science, mathematics, history and art through hands-on activities. The camp recently began operating in Hawaii, which means that it’s been held in all 50 states.

Neshannock Elementary is the first school to hold this camp in the Lawrence County area, and this was its first year.

The five-day program was open to all students in first through sixth grade. Students spent the week in a noisy, messy — but most importantly, fun — environment.

Program director Staci Norris described the atmosphere as “laid back,” and that as long as the kids had fun, that was all that mattered. Norris said the best part was that the children are learning, and they don’t even realize it.

The camp included five modules, including Problem Solving on Planet ZAK, Imagination Point: Ride Physics, Saving Sludge City, Geo-Games and I Can Invent: Launchitude.

These crazily-named modules inspired students to use their creativity and investigative skills.

Neshannock fifth-grader Julia Germand-Loudon said her favorite module was Imagination Point.

“It’s with rollercoasters, and we learned about Newton’s Laws of Motion,” she said. “We try to build our rollercoaster based on what we learned.”

This module taught the students about physics, which they incorporated into their rollercoaster projects that were displayed through the hallways. Students excitedly dropped marbles onto their creations, some of which even jumped onto their neighbor’s rollercoaster.

Jan Sumner, instructor for Imagination Point, said she was skeptical about teaching first graders physics. However, she was pleasantly surprised when the first graders picked it up just as well as the sixth graders did.

Grace Beal, a sixth-grade student at Neshannock, said she enjoys building things, but before this, there wasn’t a camp where she could do that. Her favorite module was I Can Invent.

“The station where we built the duck launcher is my favorite; we used recycled electronics,” Grace said.

Norris said this module was a student favorite. She said that students brought in broken appliances, including radio control cars, and even a sewing machine.

She said the students learned about reverse engineering by disassembling the appliances to create something that will launch a rubber duck across the room into a pool of water.

In Problem Solving on Planet ZAK, students simulated crash landing on an alien planet. With no aid from teachers, or instructors, the students had to work together to decide how to build protective clothing, how to retrieve food and how to build a spaceship through air pressure experiments.

Saving Sludge City taught the students about recycling, by teaching them how they can reuse discarded items to make a green, eco-friendly environment.

In the final module, Geo-Games, students practiced teamwork, and their communication skills by competing in problem-solving games.

Norris said some parents were hesitant about signing up their kids for the camp, thinking that they would not want to wake up early and come to school during the summer. She said those same kids were some of the first ones to arrive at camp everyday.

“This is one noisy, messy camp,” she said, “and I love it.”