Time to create
Misael Diaz builds a table top golf course at Camp Invention at Winnequah School on June 28. The camp encouraged children to learn by trial and error and to create inventions.
More than 50 students from kindergarten through sixth grade were innovators at Camp Invention last month at Winnequah School.
They performed interactive activities and learned about physical science and artistic design through trial and error. Activities included launching their own Optibot, a small self-driving robot that senses changes in light; creating a Mod My Mini Mansion, a futuristic smart home filled with gadgets, LEDs and technology; and crafting solutions to real-world challenges by building their own prototypes.
Camp Invention, a national program, offers adventures with modules and activities exploring the connections among science, technology, engineering and innovation. Camp Invention partners with more than 1,300 schools and districts in all 50 states.
Peter Kuzma, camp director and art teacher in the Monona Grove School District, said the children used the “create, test and recreate” approach to learning and learned the value of trial and error. Older students, who have already been a part of this program, can serve as counselors and mentors.
Students Gus Miller and Misael Diaz spent one of the last days of the program making a miniature mini-golf game. They used cardboard, string and anything else they could find to create a challenging activity.
“It is going to have a lot of turns and stuff,” Gus said. “I like coming here, because it is fun to make stuff with random things.”
Misael said he plans on making a windmill with straw and cardboard for his game.
“It is so much fun,” he said.
Students had to create a game, using many supplies with junk products they brought from home, develop rules and a point system for the game and teach others to play it.
“This is their creation,” Kuzma said. “The curriculum for this program is really strong. It is open-ended.”
He likes the program because it is the children’s ideas.
“This gives students a hands-on experience,” Kuzma said. “One student used a CD to make solar panels.”
Students also brought in VCRs, DVD players and boomboxes and took them apart to learn how they were made.
The children are often given some simple invention activities to try at home and are encouraged to work as a team. For inspiration, they studied people who were inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame, such as Warren Johnson, who invented temperature control, and Mary Engle Pennington, who invented food preservation and storage.
“Our focus is on the process of creating, and not necessarily on the product being created,” Kuzma said. “They learn that their ideas matter, and we seek to build on that excitement.”