April 19, 2014

Kids use science, math to create

Corbin H. Crable
chcrable@gardnernews.com

Although classes are done for the year at Spring Hill Elementary School, the doors opened last week for kids wanting to use the power of their imaginations – and science, too – to create inventions.

A camper shares his invention, a bug made of household items, with the camera. Students at the weeklong daycamp used science and imagination to create. Staff photo by Corbin H. Crable

National organization Invent Now Kids, along with USD 230, sponsored the annual Camp Invention program June 7-11 at the school.

Camp Invention helps to foster problem-solving skills using activities related to the fields of engineering, math and science, among others.

This year’s program was filled to its capacity in April, according to program director and SHES teacher Darcy Sly, who said 121 children enrolled this year. The children, who ranged in age from first-graders to sixth-graders, were split into groups, and each group participated in a different activity each day, with each group rotating throughout the week.

“It’s a lot of science and math, and it’s very creative,” Sly said. “The kids don’t even realize that they’re learning.”

The week’s activities included creating a virtual world, producing an invention that would help participants solve a problem in their everyday lives, and inventing robotic creatures.

Teachers from Spring Hill’s schools, along with high school and college-age volunteers, were busy at work June 11 helping the kids put the finishing touches on their projects, which they were able to show to their parents at an assembly later in the afternoon.

Matthew Lewis, a science and chemistry teacher at Spring Hill High School, said this was his first year volunteering as an instructor with Camp Invention, and that he enjoyed helping kids tap into their creativity while learning at the same time.

“It’s gone really well. They’ve been really creative,” Lewis said as he watched his group building a virtual world, complete with an aqueduct to provide water to their small cities. “I’ve enjoyed helping to get them to think more creatively than they normally would.”

Kids share creations with family on the last day of Camp Invention at Spring Hill Elementary School. The students used imagination to make inventions during the weeklong day camp. Staff photos by Corbin H. Crable

Lewis said, however, the children in his group learned a lot more about teamwork as well.

“We also talk about being fair and dividing the workload evenly,” he said.

The kids in his group began to chatter loudly and their voices raised a loud pitch as it came time to wrap up their project and get to the assembly.

“Ear plugs are completely optional,” Lewis joked. “It can be stressful, but it’s a fun time.”

Down the hall, Camp Invention instructor Travis Brown, a history and science teacher at Spring Hill Middle School, ushered his kids toward the classroom door with their projects in hand. Brown’s group crafted small robotic bugs out of everyday household items.

Brown said his favorite part of the week was getting out of the normal classroom setting and working more closely with the children.

“The kids here can actually get hands-on experience with science,” Brown said. “In a regular classroom, you don’t always have the time to work on the fun stuff.”

In the classroom next door, instructor Gissel McDonald, a chemistry teacher at Spring Hill High School, taught students how to take apart old appliances and use the parts to invent something that will help them to solve problems in their everyday lives.

“Most of the problems involve (students) catching bugs or trying to keep their little brother out of their room,” McDonald said.

One young boy, however, decided to think about problems on a larger scale – he presented McDonald with a device that would help clean sea animals involved in oil spills.

McDonald echoed the sentiments of the other instructors and volunteers at Camp Invention – she had fun watching kids learn and become involved in projects that utilized their own imaginations.

“They certainly do have unending energy,” McDonald said. “The boys especially just love to tinker.”

On the Web:

Camp Invention: www.campinvention.org

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