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Young Einsteins?

Summer camp teaches science through inventions
By: Cole Mayer, The Telegraph
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The multipurpose room at Gold Ridge Elementary School was abuzz with children inventing. Next to the door was a pile of trash — old egg cartons, plastic containers, boxes. Sitting at tables and on the floors, working in groups small groups of three or four, the young inventors used the mountain of trash and broken appliances taken from home to create a machine that would crack open a plastic egg. “Building stuff and meeting friends is fun,” Cami Davis, 10, said. Camp Invention, a weeklong summer enrichment program for children between first and sixth grades, provides learning in science, mathematics, history and the arts disguised as fun activities. The program was created in 1990 by Invent Now Kids, a non-profit company based in Akron, Ohio, and its parent company, the National Inventors Hall of Fame Foundation, with support from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. It is designed to comply with state and national education standards and teach youngsters that science is fun. The fledgling scientists learn through five rotating daily modules such as creating different inventions, learning the science behind superheroes to create a comic book and tracking down lost Viking treasure while learning the history of the vicious Vikings. “It’s fun taking things apart, seeing inside. It’s fun working with tools,” said Shreya Balaji, 8, wielding a small screwdriver and taking it to a partially dismantled coffee maker. “We learned how superheroes fly. It’s really fun.” Her teacher, Darlene Kunstel, 47, of Cameron Park, said the science camp is full of “creative ideas, the kids take apart things, try to create new inventions. … They explore different ways of thinking.” Camp-goers are taught what the program calls the “STEM” fields — science, technology, engineering and math. The STEM curriculum was created to show elementary school-age children that these fields, crucially in need of fresh talent, are interesting and exciting. Camp Invention is designed to “get kids interested in science, how things work, and use their imagination,” said Rob Fergusson, 44, of Folsom. “It’s about trying something new, creativity, exploration, camaraderie, working as a group, and having a blast.” The summer camps are headed by teachers from the community who are “selected for their abilities to excite and motivate children and their enthusiasm for creative learning,” and teach at their own schools. Kunstel was certainly enthusiastic as she proudly proclaimed that she taught at Gold Ridge full time. There are up to 110 participants with about a 1-to-8 teacher-to-child ratio, meaning that children will have greater interaction with their summer camp guide than in a traditional school setting. Last year saw 66,000 children participating at 1,056 sites in 48 states. -- KNOW AND GO What: Camp Invention When: 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., June 15-19 Where: Lake Forest Elementary, 2240 Sailsbury Drive, El Dorado Hills Cost: $230-$245 Info: campinvention.org