Students from area schools were busy building and creating things recently at North Jackson Elementary.
More than 65 children participated in Camp Invention at the school and the program gave them opportunities to complete hands-on projects while at the same time teaching them to think creatively.
According to program director, Emma Taylor, students from Barren County and Glasgow schools in kindergarten through sixth grade attended the week-long camp.
“We really want to foster inquiry-based learning. ‘What if this happens and if we change this, will it still work?’” she said.
The camp consisted of four different modules, “W!LD: Wondrous Innovations and Living Designs,” “The Curious Cypher Club,” “Bounce! An Atomic Journey,” and “I Can Invent: Edison’s Workshop.”
In the “W!LD” classroom, Shana McMurtrey was teaching her students about colors and animals.
“This is a very fun module and what we are doing is looking at animals and what skills those animals have that inspired scientists to invent something,” she said. “Today, we’re talking about paper wasps and we’re finding out how (they) inspired the invention of paper and then we’re looking at the wasp’s nest and the structure that is has and we’re finding out why they build it in that particular pattern. We’re doing a test right now to see if we can build a structure similar to a wasp’s nest and see if we can make a strong structure out of paper.”
As a demonstration, McMurtrey had one student, Julia, stand on a group of small paper cups that had been grouped together underneath a piece of cardboard. The cluster of cups withstood the girl’s weight without being crushed, whereas a single paper cup by itself could not.
Teacher Nancy Angerman was busy helping her students become decoding sleuths in the Curious Cypher Club.
“I have some wonderful agents here and they have been working hard all week to decode secret messages,” she said.
The students worked on reverse alphabet codes, grids, Morse and Cesar codes during the week.
“Every day they have figured out their message and then we have been working on clubhouses because we are a deciphering club,” Angerman said.
Students in the Bounce! module were getting slimy in the process of making bouncy balls and learning about atoms in their classroom. They made a gooey mixture inside of plastic bags that could then be formed into balls.
“Right now, our class is called ‘Bounce!’ and at the end of the week our object is to try to learn how to make a bouncy ball. So, we’ve been talking about molecules and atoms and mixtures and compounds and what we have to do in order to make our bouncy ball,” said Erica Brownstead, their teacher.
The fourth module, Edison’s Workshop, allowed the children to take apart broken equipment they brought from home and construct a new project with the pieces.
“They’ve brought in VCRs and computers and toasters. We’ve had very interesting things and they’ve brought those in and taken those apart,” said teacher Susan Peters.
The younger students were to invent a ball machine while the older ones tried to make a Rube Goldberg-type of apparatus, which involves a deliberately over-engineered machine that performs a very simple task in a very complex fashion, usually including a chain reaction.
“The primary kids learned about patents and trademarks and what it takes to get a patent and to have legal ownership,” Peters said. “They’ve got different types of balls – superballs, marbles, ping pong balls and golf balls. The object is to have a starting point. It goes through six different materials, has three actions and then it has two stopping points. So they are creating by using different types of materials.”
With their Rube Goldberg contraptions, the older students had to add steps to make their projects more complex.
“Instead of just taking a scooper to do the Puppy Chow in the bowl, they’ve got to come up with six different things that they’re using and taking it through different steps to accomplish that,” Peters said.
The classroom floor where the young Edisons were constructing their machines was strewn with bits and pieces of metal, plastic and wire.
“I think this is probably one of the favorite ones,” said Taylor. “This one module comes back every year. We’ve had it for the entire five years that we’ve being doing (the camp).”
Many of the students have participated in the camp in previous years and all have their own favorite activities.
Olivia Stanley, 10, from Austin Tracy Elementary, liked the Edison and Bounce modules.
“We’ve been doing this class where we take apart items and we’re trying to make a ball machine ... and then we’re doing this one class where we’re learning about bouncy balls and atoms and everything,” she said.
Connor Williams, 7, from North Jackson, said, “I like that we get to build things.”
Drake Carden, 11, from Highland Elementary, liked “trying to think about how to make bouncy balls.”
Madison Adams, 7, from North Jackson, just likes “inventing.”
One student liked them all.
“I like that we got to make slime today because I love slimy things,” said Erin Wilson, 11, from North Jackson. “I like to feel watery, smooshy things and we did a class where we had to take things apart and then build a contraption to make a winner banner pop out at the end and then there was another class where we learned about animals and their special adaptations. Our last class is called the CCC, the Curious Cypher Club, and we have to decode codes and we’re also building clubhouses.”
Taylor said the camp gives children the chance to make new friends and be exposed to a little bit more diversity.
“I really like that we have children from all over Barren County. It’s kind of a tribute that they keep coming back each year. They’re a great group of kids and I think they’ve all had a good time,” she said.