Camp teaches science in innovative ways

CNJ staff photo: Liliana Castillo Daniela Rodriguez, left, and Quinn Neighoff work together to disassemble an electronic device in the I Can Invent class of Camp Invention at La Casita Elementary School. The girls were members of the Blue Bubbles team. The students also participated in c

By Liliana Castillo: CNJ staff writer

As Quinn Neighoff disassembled an old stereo, her teammates picked through the parts and discussed their usefulness.

Neighoff and her three teammates, called the Blue Bubbles, were charged with building an egg launcher out of the sparse supplies given to them as part of Camp Invention, a new program in Clovis.

The camp at La Casita Elementary School is part of a national non-profit organization aimed at teaching students science in more interesting ways.

Each activity in the camp is hands-on learning, which director Natasha Neuberger believes is the most effective way for students to learn.

“Science can be so boring for kids if you just sit them in class and tell them all the rules. If it’s fun and hands-on, they will retain the education portion much better,” she said.

Neuberger came to Clovis two and a half years ago when her husband was stationed at Cannon Air Force Base. Her three children attended school in the Clovis system, until this year, when she decided to homeschool them. Neuberger said her children attended Camp Invention in Albuquerque last year with a family friend. When she went to the Web site to register her children this year, she learned that she could bring the camp to Clovis.

“There’s not a lot for kids to do during the summer,” Neuberger said. “It’s so much fun, that’s why I brought it here. It’s so much fun I wish I was a kid so I could play too.”

The camp is separated into four sections, each focusing on a different area of science.

• In Imagination Point: Ride Physics, students work as interns for the world’s largest amusement park. They are introduced to the basic principals of motion through activities related to amusement park rides.

• In I Can Invent: Fantasy Inventions and Complicated Machines, students use creative problem solving to create a machine of their choice.

• In Saving Sludge City, the students have to rebuild a clean, eco-friendly city after adults and businesses have polluted the town to the point of ruin.

• In Planet Zak, the students crash land on an uncharted planet and use critical-thinking skills to stay safe and nourished. Each class is taught by a local teacher.

Neighoff said her favorite part of the camp is Saving Sludge City.

“I like learning what’s going on with the earth and how to help it,” the 11-year-old said. “I really like that we get to learn hands-on and it’s different than learning in school.”

Lucas Shirley, a member of the Blue Boys team, said I Can Invent is his favorite class in camp.

“I get to learn how things work and learn how to use tools and take things apart,” he said.

The students need to use at least two simple machines in the making of their egg launcher.

“This is fun because we’re kind of playing while we’re learning,” the 9-year-old said.

Neuberger said she hopes the camp will grow in the future.

“The best thing about the camp is that their imaginations are not inhibited. This opens their mind to think outside the box and be creative, which is important because they’re children,” she said.

The camp costs about $200 a student for the week-long camp and the tuition is used to pay the staff and to purchase supplies, Neuberger said. Neuberger said she was able to find sponsors for some scholarships and is hoping to raise more next year.

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