Education feature: Imaginations in gear

CNJ staff photo: Liliana Castillo Jordan Marin, 10, figures out a way to connect a battery to his creature Tuesday at Mesa Elementary School during Camp Invention.

Liliana Castillo

Each student built a battery-operated creature out of household items during Camp Invention.

It is just one exercise in the week-long Camp Invention designed to teach 65 participating students multiple subjects at once.

The camp uses the STEM approach, focusing on science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

In its second year in Clovis, the camp is intended to build creative and critical thinking skills through modules that focus on problem solving and creating.

Learning to build a battery-operated creature out of Styrofoam, toothpicks, duct tape and a battery teaches the students about balance, atoms and electrons and energy.

“And they use their imaginations,” said Mesa Elementary fifth grade teacher Doug Schwartz. “Nothing is hindering them.”

Schwartz returned to the camp for the second year because he said it’s good for the students to be given a venue for their imaginations.

“They get to create freely instead of ‘this is what you do,’” he said. “Really, this is the way we should teach everything if we could.”

Christian Fox, 10, said he never made a battery-powered thing before.

“It’s pretty cool,” he said.

His creature started out as a boat with a tail that rotates like a rudder. He decided the wires would get wet and wouldn’t work and turned it into a dog, compete with floppy gray ears and a red tongue.

“It’s really great, building something,” he said.

Fox said he wants to be an inventor when he grows up.

Camp director Natasha Neuberger is a home-schooling mom from Clovis. She said she’s hoping to keep Camp Invention returning each summer.

The program is open to students entering first grade through sixth grade.

“I love it and the kids love it. They get to use their imaginations which they don’t do (in school) anymore,” she said.

Neuberger said the camp had new curriculum this year and applauded one module called the Hatched module that introduced money, bartering and economics to students as young as 7 years old.