Kitsap's Camp Invention puts ‘future scientists’ to work

Travis VonHeeder, 7, pours water into a filter system of sand, rock, cotton and a coffee filter as Mackenzie Warren, 8, looks on at Sylvan Way Christian Center
Travis VonHeeder, 7, pours water into a filter system of sand, rock, cotton and a coffee filter as Mackenzie Warren, 8, looks on at Sylvan Way Christian Center's Camp Invention on Tuesday.
— image credit: Photo by Jesse Beals

A handful of the area’s youngest creative minds joined Tuesday for day two of Camp Invention, a week-long summer program designed to spark science interest in elementary students through hands-on activities.

In conjunction with the National Inventors Hall of Fame, Camp Invention originated in 1990 in Akron, Ohio and this year will serve more than 60,000 students in 47 states, including Washington.

That’s how 53 aspiring inventors wound up at Sylvan Way Christian School, working in groups to build, rebuild, create and learn everything science.

They learned to clean muddy water, create balloon-launching contraptions and rebuild electronic devices including radios and computers.

“If kids don’t get hands-on experience in science, they don’t like it,” camp director Patti Nelson said. “It’s just giving kids a chance.”

Nelson, who teaches at Sylvan Way during the school year, decided to hop on with Camp Invention because she said she feels young students need hands-on science experience.

“I like science, I want kids to like science,” she said. “I want kids to see that they are the scientists.”

Her approach appeared to be working as campers were all smiles.

“I like how you learn things and do experiments,” first-timer Alex Johan said. “I like taking things apart.”

Johan’s group worked with dirty water, creating a purification system to clean it, a project that followed this year’s camp theme: “Create.”

“I think all in all, they love it,” Nelson said of the theme. “The whole idea is they are building and creating.”

In its second year as a Camp Invention host, Sylvan Way drew 18 more students this year — up from last year’s total of 35.

“I had to order more T-shirts,” Nelson said.

Of those children, about a dozen are Sylvan Way students, according to Nelson, and the rest come from all over the county.

“Really, they are from all over,” she said.

Along with Nelson, parent volunteers and camp counselors, including five junior counselors, help guide the campers.

“I’ve had an amazing time,” junior counselor Carly Walter said. “I like all the great things we do here.”

Walter, who is entering ninth grade at King’s West School, led the 17-member “orange group” from station to station.

“We’re all having a great time,” she said.

And while Camp Invention is science-oriented, it also fosters team work, problem solving and friendship.

“They do a lot of collaborating, come up with a plan and share their ideas,” Nelson said. “(And) there’s a little bit of teaching, giving them background.”

Another first-time camper, Kylar Combs, said his interest in science stems from his grandfather.

“He was a scientist and I heard it and got interested,” said Combs, who is a soon-to-be third-grader at West Hills Elementary School. “I’m coming back, it’s fun, we make a lot of friends.”

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