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Tristan NeSmith and Anna Wilson debate how a command center should be constructed at Camp Invention Explore at Barkley Bridge Elementary School in Hartselle.
Daily photo by John Godbey
Tristan NeSmith and Anna Wilson debate how a command center should be constructed at Camp Invention Explore at Barkley Bridge Elementary School in Hartselle.

Stimulating
young minds

Inventors’ camp teaches children science in fun environment

By Emily Peck
340-2408

“Spies! Take cover!”

Behind doors labeled top secret, a group of fifth- and sixth-grade students freeze.

These children aren’t actors in the latest Spy Kids movie, but students of Camp Invention Explore at Barkley Bridge Elementary in Hartselle.

During the week, 72 students will have fun while learning about science says Director John Mark Waynick.

“The camp is all hands-on, and the kids really go to town with it,” says Waynick. “We keep discussion and instruction to a minimum.”

Waynick became a believer in the program after working as a camp teacher last year.

“It’s a really great way to reinforce science skills kids learn in school,” says Waynick, who teaches third grade at Barkley Bridge.

The most popular module at Camp Invention is the “I Can Invent/Take Apart” simulation says Waynick.

Students bring in an old mechanical appliance such as a stereo or VCR, tear it apart, and get an inside look at the gears that make it work. Children then try to create their own invention using parts from their machines and those of other classmates.

“Ninety percent of what they make only works in the imagination,” says Waynick, “although a few of the older kids actually create something that works.”

In the next room children make tinfoil satellites to communicate with “others” in the galaxy.

“Look at my spaceship,” says camper James Newman, holding up a paper plate and Saran Wrap creation.

Teacher Rhonda Russell instructs children to design pieces of a crime scene in “Solve it: The Missing Inventor’s Log.” Over the week, campers will build a house to help them solve the mystery of a Clue-type game.

Even recess is a learning experience.

“We don’t just let them play games,” says Waynick. “We engage their minds by asking them to invent and change the rules to games.”

Although Camp Invention is an educational experience, it’s also a lot of fun says Waynick. “The kids really love it. We get calls from parents who say their child has been talking about camp all year and wants to do it again.”

Fifty percent of students at this year’s camp are previous participants.

Camp Invention is part of a nationwide program sponsored by the National Inventors Hall of Fame Foundation.

This is the second year Barkley Bridge has hosted the event.

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