By Madeleine Mosher
For Greene County News
BELLBROOK — When Bell Creek Intermediate School teacher Shelley Smith was in elementary school, no one encouraged her to pursue math and science.
That’s one of the reasons she believes programs like Camp Invention are important for elementary school students. It gives kids the opportunity to discover that they have skills in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) in a world that seems to desire these skills.
Camp Invention is a summer day camp for kindergarten through sixth grade students created by the National Inventors Hall of Fame. Kids participate in hands-on and collaborative STEM activities. This year, due to COVID-19, Bell Creek Intermediate School in Bellbrook will provide this camp virtually.
Camp Invention runs from July 13 to 17, and registration closes June 28. Currently, about 60 students have registered.
This year’s camp challenges include reverse-engineering robots, designing parachutes, and learning about inventors involved in sports. Students will also create their own inventions. About a week before camp begins, they’ll receive a package in the mail that contains all the materials they need.
Bell Creek special education intervention specialist and camp coordinator Dee VanBrackel said she’s most excited for the flight lab module. Students will do activities related to aviation and study how robots work. Dayton is the childhood home of the Wright brothers, and studying flight will connect students to this local history.
Smith, an avid baseball fan, said she’s the most excited for the Camp Invention Champions module. Kids will learn about inventors involved in sports and design their own stadiums.
“Even though we have to do this online,” Smith, who teaches fourth grade language arts and social studies, said, “[students are] still going to have access to the activities, they’re going to have a chance to get creative and come up with things on their own and then share them.”
This creativity is what makes Camp Invention special, Smith said. Instructors (or coaches, as they’re called this year), don’t dictate what students create. Instead, they present ideas to students and give them time to develop their own ideas. This year, the presentation will be virtual, and the students will work on activities from their homes.
Though she’s glad that campers will get to participate in STEM activities, Smith said she’s concerned about collaboration because students won’t all be meeting and discussing projects at once.
They’ll have access to live video meetings with their coaches and fellow campers but won’t be required to meet. According to VanBrackel, not all students will be able to log in to meetings during regular camp hours. They will have to wait until their parents get home from work or an older sibling can help them log on and watch any meetings and instruction from the day.
For students that can’t be online during camp hours, Smith said she plans to be available in the evenings to email and meet with them. She’s willing to put in these hours because she knows how important it is for kids to have exposure to STEM activities.
“I really love that they can have a chance to be problem solvers and be creative and use their imaginations,” Smith said, “and there’s nothing that’s going to say, ‘Oh, you did it wrong,’ or ‘that’s not the way we told you to do it.’ It’s going to be, ‘Ok, what did you come up with?’ ”
For more information or to register for Camp Invention, visit https://www.invent.org/programs/camp-invention.
Cedarville University senior Madeleine Mosher is an intern for Greene County News.