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Camp Invention captivates students, instructors

August 4, 2018

STERLING – Although Camp Invention was meant for elementary school children, the instructors who run the camp say they learned just as much, if not more, than their charges.

For instructors Sheila Alexander, Lyndsey Ebersole, Amy Strehlow and the 42 campgoers, hands-on experience is key to understanding and teaching science, technology, engineering and math.

This was the fifth year for the camp, held all this week at Woodlawn Arts Academy in Sterling.

Sponsored by the National Inventors Hall of Fame, it challenges K-6 students to find their inner inventor. Each year brings a new curriculum that focuses on learning, resourcefulness and problem-solving skills.

This year, campers participated in four STEM-based activities: Optibot, a workshop in which they designed and built a self-driving robot; Robotic Pet Vet, in which they nursed a sick robotic puppy back to health; Mod My Mini Mansion, where the kids designed and built a futuristic, gadget-filled dream home; and Stick To It, in which they teamed up to explore what it is like to be an engineer, inventor or entrepreneur, creating something new every day.

STEM is taught differently at every school, and the camp will help the teachers incorporate new ideas into their lesson plans and customize exercises to fit their students’ needs.

“This camp is perfect, because I really like math and science,” said Alexander, who teaches special ed at Fulton Elementary School. “We get to take back the materials and hands on experience we learn here to our classrooms.”

Ebersole, a Morrison Southside Elementary fourth-grade teacher, agrees, “STEM is the next big push in education at the elementary level.”

It’s not just the course material that is valuable to teachers and their pupils, it’s also learning that teamwork, collaboration and the scientific method can apply outside the classroom.

“This [camp] is important because because of the social skills they learn here,” said Strehlow, who also teaches at Fulton Elementary. “The kids learn that its OK to make mistakes when they are creating by themselves or collaborating in teams.”

Out of all the skill campers will be taking home, the ability to collaborate may be the most useful.

“Teamwork is just critical in today’s world,” Alexander said.

Of all four activities, in fact, Sterling camper Ellie Aitken’s favorite wasn’t designing a home of the future, or learning about a robotic puppy: “I like Stick To It the best, because of the teamwork,” she said.

“It made me more confident when we invented things together.”

Camper Boden Last of Milledgeville agreed.

“My favorite part was Stick To It, because we worked with each other to make prototypes of technology that could be real some day.”

FOR MORE INFORMATION

To learn more about next year’s Camp Invention, contact Woodlawn Arts Academy program director Becky Rich at 815-626-4278 or brich@woodlawnartsacademy.com.

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