Magazine article Technology and Children

Learning and Fun Merge at Camp Invention

Magazine article Technology and Children

Learning and Fun Merge at Camp Invention

Article excerpt

It's OK to have fun while you learn. In fact, having fun helps you learn. That's a major premise of the curriculum at Camp Invention^sup (R)^, a hands-on science and creativity day camp for children entering second through sixth grade. Approximately 380 schools nationwide will host Camp Invention^sup (C)^ this summer. Although held in a school, the atmosphere during camp differs from that of a traditional school. Unlike school, the noise level is high, and there are no quizzes, standardized tests, textbooks, or homework assignments. But like school, a lot of learning takes place.

Camp Invention^sup (R)^ is a program of the National Inventors Hall of Fame^sup (R)^ in Akron, Ohio. Started at two schools there in 1990, the easily-replicated program has expanded to 45 metropolitan areas and approximately 27,000 campers. In 1999 Camp Invention became a joint project of the Hall of Fame and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Camp Invention^sup (C)^ is held in partnership with local schools at no cost to the school. The school provides the facility and staff while Camp Invention^sup (C)^provides the curriculum, materials, central reservation system, marketing, and staff compensation.

Same Standards as Inside the Classroom

The hands-on curriculum combined with the informal camp setting help make science come alive for kids. While Camp Invention^sup (R)^ takes place in a school with the same teachers as school, the activities are much more playful than in a formal school setting. The curriculum was written for campers carrying bags of recyclable junk, not for students carrying textbooks. It was also written from the child's point of view. Rather than starting with a body of knowledge which kids should learn, the curriculum started with a thought process, "If I were a kid, what would I want to do to have fun?" That answer was then matched with appropriate scientific concepts, blending science experiences with creative play.

Camp Invention^sup (R)^ 's curriculum strives to meet the standards set by the National Association of Science Teachers as "science as inquiry." In addition, the math activities exceed many standards of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics because they introduce concepts at an earlier age than recommended. The curriculum integrates science with math, history, the arts, and fun. There are four distinct weeklong programs. Each contains five modules in which campers participate one hour daily.

In I Can Invent^sup TM^ campers take apart discarded appliances and reinvent them into a problem-solving invention. They also learn how to patent and market their product.

Probability Carnival^sup TM^ is the setting for learning about mathematical laws of probability by inventing and playing carnival midway games.

The Wild Blue Y'Under^sup TM^ takes campers' imaginations to greater heights with a "Mission Impossible" theme. They travel the globe as they explore physics concepts such as buoyancy, lift, density, friction, propulsion, and water pressure.

The Super Polymers^sup TM^ module heightens campers' awareness of polymer science by investigating chemical properties of polymers. Campers even get to take apart a baby diaper to learn about absorbency.

In Marble-ous Inventions^sup TM^ campers use marble games to learn about motion. They design and test marble machines, experience the art of marbles and develop an appreciation of their attributes.

Qualities Which Enhance Learning Outside the Classroom

While each module in the curriculum is unique, they share common elements which enhance informal learning outside the classroom, including:

Relevant and, fun. The curriculum allows kids to invent and create based on scientific principles - but with a relevant childlike view. It makes proven problem-solving techniques applicable to children's lives and things they like such as playing with marbles. For example, picture children's responses to these two scenarios about teaching Newton's laws of motion. …

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