Saturday, June 19, 2004

Kids take science apart during Camp Invention

By Anna Guido
Enquirer contributor

Luke Discher, 9, tests his hand-made car on a covered slide.
The Cincinnati Enquirer/GLENN HARTONG

Demonstrating the power of the pulley (from left), third-graders Helen Zhang and Avery Cook strain to hold apart the wooden bars as Ethan Shearer pulls on the rope.
The Cincinnati Enquirer/GLENN HARTONG
WEST CHESTER TWP. - It was day three on "Planet Zak" and stranded campers still hadn't figured out how to cross the acidic swamp to retrieve the only visible food source - a bowl of popcorn.

"They're very hungry," teacher Donna Bright said.

Christina Brinkmann, 8, and Avery Cook, 7, both entering the third grade at Woodland Elementary in the Lakota Local School District, tried taping together empty 2-liter bottles and pieces of cardboard to stretch across the make-believe swamp and scoop up the goodies.

But they didn't get much encouragement from 9-year-old Levi Ellis, a former Lakota student who now lives in Harrodsburg, Ky.

"Personally, I don't think it's going to work," Levi said.

These youngsters are participating in Camp Invention, the national summer day camp that promotes creativity, inventiveness and science literacy by providing children with hands-on interactive activities.

This camp was at Lakota's Freedom Elementary and is one of nearly a dozen Camp Inventions at schools throughout Greater Cincinnati this summer.

June 21-25: Elm Elementary, Wyoming; Woodland Elementary, Liberty Township; North Pointe Elementary, Hebron; Beechwood Elementary, Fort Mitchell.

June 28-July 2: Dater Montessori, Cincinnati; Woodfill Elementary, Fort Thomas.

July 26-30: Kelly Elementary, Belleview.

Aug. 2-6: Hinsdale Elementary, Edgewood.

Camp fee is $209.

To register, call (800) 968-4332. For information about Camp Invention or Club Invention (the new after-school version), visit, or call John Olman, regional coordinator, (513) 383-5384.

Camp Invention is an educational outreach program of the National Inventors Hall of Fame in Akron. Since its inception in 1990, Camp Invention has grown from two local camps in Akron to a national program with nearly 800 camps.

The camps are conducted in partnership with local schools, which provide the facility and staff. The Freedom Elementary camp, in its ninth year, was among the first school sites outside Akron to pilot Camp Invention.

Camp director Karen Qualls, a former Freedom teacher who now teaches at Woodland Elementary, has been in charge since the beginning.

Nationally, the approach to teaching science in and outside the classroom is changing to help improve traditionally low proficiency scores in the subject.

The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) suggests one reason is that U.S. students are taught too many topics at a superficial level. Innovative programs like Camp Invention help advance the discovery and understanding of science by delving beyond the superficial.

During the five-day camp, students in grades 2-6 participate daily in five theme-based study modules.

They learn how to survive life on a mysterious planet, design roller coasters and conduct environmental experiments.

In the "I Can Invent Room," students take apart a discarded appliance or machine, then use the parts to create their own invention.

"Most don't work," Qualls said. "But the product is secondary to the process."


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