Camp Invention gears up for another year

GTNS photo by Gretchen Teske

Zack Hotchkiss, 8, is all smiles on the first day of Camp Invention, Monday, June 10.
GTNS photo by Gretchen Teske Zack Hotchkiss, 8, is all smiles on the first day of Camp Invention, Monday, June 10.

For Payton Hesseltine, Sam Kaye and Zack Hotchkiss, school just let out for summer last week, but they had no complaints about being back in so soon. The trio were all smiles as they worked together to dig for fossils during the first day of Camp Invention on Monday, June 10.

The five-day camp, normally held at Lincoln Elementary School, was held at Kirkwood this year due to teachers still working in their classrooms. With 81 campers from Kindergarten-sixth grade, the upstairs of the Kirkwood Regional Center in Washington proved to be the perfect location.

Janet Conrad, Director of Camp Invention, said this is something she looks forward to every year because it is an inclusive camp that allows for kids of all abilities to use their imaginations to try something new.

“It keeps them engaged in learning opportunities and it provides kids opportunities to see that science and technology can be fun and even at this age, kids are able to do it,” she said. “It gives them confidence with designing and building and learning new things.”

Pennie Schlatter has been volunteering with Camp Invention for eight years and said seeing the confidence levels in the students grow is her favorite part. This year she taught “innovation force” which encourages kids to use their imaginations to invent new things.

What she enjoys most about the camp is the opportunity for students to be completely hands-on with science, because they do not get that on a regular basis.

“A lot of times I think they learn self-confidence when they’re here and they learn to work as a team,” she said. “Besides all the science and STEM they get from this, they get to think up new ideas. They get to imagine, create and with technology being what it is, they don’t get to work together often.”

Schlatter said the teamwork aspect is important because she feels students need to learn that skill at a young age. Mark Berhow, who also volunteered with Camp Invention, said he enjoys seeing the kids learn through problem solving.

He taught the “DIY Orbot” station this year which takes kids through the steps and process of programming a robot, called an orbot. He said everything is brought down to a level that makes it simple for even the smaller kids to understand and gives them a chance to try new things and problem solve with other campers.

“It gets them so they aren’t afraid of it and can see what’s the value of trying to solve problems with technology,” he said. “It’s a good experience for them to problem solve.”

Nicole Bruty taught the Farm Tech activities this year which explored how technology is used on farms. She said she enjoyed the materials and working with the students because it allows them a chance to see how technology and science are applied to everyday life.

Liz Goodwin taught the Deep Sea Mystery class which focused on discoveries in the sea. On Monday, students were able to dig for fossils, an activity Goodwin said they are not able to do at home.

She said coming to camp to get new experiences and try new things is what camp is all about and why she enjoys volunteering. At Camp Invention, students of all ages are encouraged to dream up ideas and invent whatever they can come up with.

“Sometimes the youngest kids come up with the most exciting and awesome ideas because their imagination is just through the roof,” she said.