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Camp Invention: Little geniuses at work

Eleven-year-old Tim Anderson fiddled with an electronic gadget the size of his palm Wednesday afternoon at Cougar Valley Elementary School. Anderson, one of about 90 campers at Camp Invention at the school, has big plans for the gizmo, which used to be part of a working radio. Anderson’s going to make his gadget into a transceiver.

“It’s like a mix between a transmitter and a receiver,” Anderson said with the tone of a communications expert. Anderson has his Hamm radio license and is trying to build a transciever like the one his Hamm radio uses.

One of the sections, “I can invent and take apart,” lets students take apart household appliances and create other appliances from the spare parts. It’s essentially a childrens’ version of “Monster Garage.”

That’s exactly what Camp Invention does: It breeds child experts in science and speaks to the inner curiosity of elementary students. The camp is a weeklong experience for all elementary students in the area.

Boys and girls alike were having a blast dismantling appliances and thinking creatively.

Camper Shannon Smith, a Silverdale Elementary School student, was having her share of fun wearing protective goggles and dismantling a computer.

“I found it in the garage and I’m going to make it into something else,” she said.

The camp is divided into several sections, each section offering a unique learning opportunity. Each section is led by a certified teacher from the Central Kitsap School District.

The sections also include “SOS: Shipwrecked,” where the students are stranded on an island and create sand sculptures, homemade paper and must build a bridge to get to food; and “Spills and Chills,” in which campers redesign skateboards to make them safer and test the laws of physics by designing a three-point safety belt for an egg.

All of the lessons incorporate science, math, teamwork and problem-solving.

Cheryl Junt, the camp director and a sixth-grade teacher at Cougar Valley Elementary School, said the camp changes the students’ perspective. About half-way through the camp, Junt started getting reports back from parents that children were perfectly willing (and able) to begin taking things apart at home.

One of the advantages the camp has over regular science classes is that the students are able to spend more time experimenting and learning, she said. In addition, while programs like Destination Imagination are for accelerated students, Camp Invention is open to all.

“This opens it up for all kids to participate, not just for the really bright kids,” Junt said. “All the kids benefit from this, not just the bright of the bright.”

Assistant camp director Diane Yetter said she likes Camp Invention because it’s a sneaky way to make children learn about science.

“They’re learning and they don’t know they’re learning,” Yetter said. “Actually, it’s fun.”

Frank Wilson, a volunteer for the camp, liked fact that the students have more of a say in the curriculum than in regular school.

“The control’s been shifted to the kids to see what direction it takes,” said Wilson, who also is a captain for Central Kitsap Fire and Rescue. “You tell the kids ‘Here’s the plan, here’s what you need to do, take your idea and develop it, problem-solve it.’”

Camp Invention is offered nationwide and is a summer program of the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

For more information, go to www.campinvention.org.

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