After school is out most elementary and middle-school children find themselves at the pool, camp or participating in summer fun. But a group of first- through sixth-graders found themselves at college – literally. The 51 students were part of Camp Invention, a science program for children designed to spark their creativity and problem-solving abilities. They came to the Cartersville campus every day for a week, and their projects included thinking through how to survive on Planet Zach, a fictional planet without any of the resources of Earth. That meant they had to devise some kind of shelter to protect themselves from the elements, a way to obtain food, a method of transportation. Finally, they had to build a miniature space ship, based on the principles of physics, so they could get home.
Campers also had to clean up Sludge City. One morning they entered their classroom to find piles of debris everywhere. Part of their assignment was to clean it up. Also as part of this exercise, they learned about water pollution and clean and dirty landfills. Their goal was to design a filter that eliminated dangerous substances in the water.
While having fun with these creative projects, students were also learning about Newton’s law of gravity, the laws of motion, friction and centrifugal force. They built a rocket ship from recyclable materials. They learned teamwork by figuring out how to complete a complicated task, making a balloon burster, in four steps. They had to plan each step so that they could move to the next one. They learned how to build a roller coaster using the laws of physics that demonstrated how to travel in a 360-degree loop.
Camp Invention is a national program that has been operational since the 1990s. While its focus is on science, the real goal is to spark imagination and analytical thinking. The program does so through hands-on activities. Studies show that learning by doing produces the greatest retention of knowledge. Twenty schools from Bartow and surrounding counties were represented. The camp was so popular that GHC expects it to grow dramatically next year. On the last day, parents and friends arrived to see their children’s inventions and hear about the time they had spent.
McKenzie House, an 11-year-old who attended, went because she wants to become a teacher of math and science. Her father has been seriously ill and unable to work, so the GHC Foundation provided her with a scholarship for the program. She was so excited and so positive that Merry Clark, the GHC science professor in charge of Camp Invention, always looked forward to her arrival. “McKenzie jumped right into all the activities. She had such a wonderful time,” said Clark. “She’s particularly interested in conservation.”
Paula House, McKenzie’s mother, said her daughter had told her, “The Earth gets sick when we’re not careful with it.” Clark said one of the most important elements of the program was its focus on reusing as many materials as possible. It’s a good lesson for students to learn.
At Camp Invention, children were loud and they got dirty – and they had the time of their lives. Word of mouth is powerful, and when put into the megaphone of children’s excited voices, very loud. And this is one time being loud is a very good thing.
To learn more about Camp Invention, visit this link at the Cartersville Daily-Tribune: