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Summer camp combines science, creative thinking

Staff Intern

BERKELEY LAKE - The term "summer camp" usually conjures images of outdoor play and physical activity.

However, these assumptions are false when it comes to Camp Invention, a summer day camp focused on hands-on education.

The nationally acclaimed camp is a weeklong program for rising first- through sixth-graders that combines science and creativity to open up kids' minds and broaden their horizons.

Camp Invention uses hands-on activities that teach kids to use their imaginations to invent solutions to problems.

The camp consists of five modules to help accomplish this feat. These modules, or classes, encourage kids to take apart used appliances, and then recycle the different parts to create something new.

Each module focuses on something different, and the focus ranges from transportation to alien invasion.

The unique idea for Camp Invention was developed by the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1990. The camp began as a summer program taking place in two elementary schools, but has since grown to reach more than 800 schools in 46 states.

In Georgia, Camp Invention takes place at several elementary schools throughout the summer.

At Berkeley Lake Elementary School, students and staff Friday finished a successful week at Camp Invention.

Director Kathy Bentley said the camp concentrates on bringing the participants creative, problem-solving experiences that don't involve homework, tests or worksheets.

"The kids think of things in different ways here," Bentley said. "They have fun with the hands-on activities."

In the "Wild Blue Y'Under" module, campers created different modes of transportation.

Sixth-grader Parker Cutler, and her team, the "Motorgirlz," were trying to invent a rolling car that would be faster than the other team's creations.

To make their car, the girls and their fellow campers were using supplies from a large table of appliance parts.

"We get to use our imagination for these projects," Cutler said.

Cutler's friend, fifth-grader Hayley Williams, agreed.

"You can create anything you want," Williams said. "There are no limits."

The Motorgirlz collectively decided heavier cars rolled faster, so were determined to create a heavy, unique car.

"The teacher gives you a general idea about the project," Cutler said. "But you get to make whatever you want."

Just down the hall, in the "I Can Invent Module," third-grader Olivia Johnson was surrounded by appliance parts as she concentrated on creating a robot.

"I want to make a robot that can cook," Johnson said. "So he can help my mom cook when she is too tired."

Johnson was using the cover pieces from a portable CD player for the robot's head, and the case of a graphic calculator as one of the robot's arms.

Johnson said her favorite part of camp is taking appliances apart.

"You get to see things you never knew about," Johnson said.

Third-grader Blake Davis was also working hard on his own invention. Davis was trying to create a shocking device.

Camp Invention has stringent safety regulations, so none of the supplies Davis used in his device carry an electric charge.

However, Davis used his imagination to overcome his creation's physical short comings.

"This is to shock annoying people," Davis said, as he described his invention.

At Camp Invention, participants also get a taste of forensic science as they investigate a pretend crime scene.

In the "Solve It" Module, campers are encouraged to be detectives and discover who stole an inventor's log.

"The kids get really serious and are very observant," Bentley said. "They focus on putting information together."

Jack Kraus, a second-grader, said the crime scene investigation was his favorite part of Camp Invention.

"I like finding out different clues," Kraus said.

With it's unique approach, it's no surprise Camp Invention continues to grow and attract more campers.

"The program appeals to a wide range of kids," Bentley said. "Everyone can be successful at Camp Invention."

Most people don't expect summer camp to be a haven of knowledge and scientific discovery. But then again, most people don't usually expect science and learning to be so much fun.

When asked about her favorite part of Camp Invention, fifth-grader Sarah Krix couldn't decide.

"I can't choose," Krix said. "It's all fun and I like everything about it."

Camp Invention is clearly breaking the mold for both science and summer camps alike.

Todd Bentley, a staff member at Camp Invention, said he loves seeing the kids be inventive and create new things.

When asked to describe Camp Invention, Todd Bentley smiled and said, "It's educational fun in disguise."