Camp at Catawba lets young students find new uses for old parts

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 26, 2012

By Sarah Campbell
SALISBURY — Local students are using their hands and minds this week at Catawba College.
They use their hands to tear up old appliances like VCRs, coffee pots and radios. Then they put their minds to work coming up with new ways to use those parts.
Thirty-eight children in first through sixth grades are taking part in Camp Invention, a weeklong summer enrichment program sponsored by Invent Now that focuses on problem solving and teamwork.
They are stretching their imaginations by using recycled materials such as bottle caps, milk jugs, egg cartons, coffee canisters and bubble wrap to create things like robots and a contraption to pop a balloon.
Cyndi Osterhus, who is running the camp as Catawba’s director of the Academy for Teaching, said each invention requires students to think outside of the box. Each one has a new set of challenges.
“We’re definitely promoting creative thinking, innovative thinking and critical thinking skills, which are some of the things we push as 21st century skills here at Catawba,” she said.
That’s why Osterhus said it was time to bring Camp Invention to campus for the first time.
“I thought this would be great for our pre-service teachers to have the opportunity to see a curriculum like this,” she said.
Three Catawba education students are working as counselors this week alongside certified teachers.
The counselors take the kids outside each day during lunch break for action and adventure games that require physical movement.
“They are playing common games that have been tweaked and changed so that kids have to rethink through the rules,” Osterhus said. “That hopefully gives them the chance to work with all grade levels so they can begin to think about adapting and adjusting to teaching different students.”
Throughout the week, students have also been learning about what habitats are and why they are necessary. They are getting an education in how motors and electricity work as well.
Osterhus called the program an “experience in exploration and creating.”
Second-grader Emma Meacham used blocks of foam and tin foil to create a mouse robot. A slide made of pipe cleaners and toys crafted out of buttons are inside the house she created for the mouse.
“It’s kind of hard and it’s kind of fun,” she said.
Brenna Smith, a rising first-grader, said she’s enjoyed making her unicorn robot and the tower to go along with it.
“I really like this,” she said. “This might be my favorite camp I’ve ever been to because I like doing science.”
Second-grader Sarah Durham relished the fact that she was taking in new experiences.
“It’s fun because you get to do activities that you’ve never done before,” she said.
Fifth-grader Max Morgan said he’s looking forward to showing his mother what he’s learned.
“I’m very happy to teach her some stuff about how things are made and show her the inside of things,” he said.
Building robots and tearing apart old appliances has kept fourth-grader Megyn Spicer engaged this week, but she’s also enjoyed something you can find at most any camp.
“I’ve been making friends,” she said.
Camp teacher Dr. Joe Poston, a biology instructor at the college, said the hands-on Camp Invention curriculum is wonderful.
“The kids have really jumped into it with no hesitation,” he said.
Osterhus said Camp Invention has been hosted in Charlotte for several years and has helped students achieve in science and math. North Hills Christian School also hosted the camp earlier this summer.
“It’s important for me to provide opportunities for students to engage in alternative curriculum, other than what they get in school,” Osterhus said. “When they grow up we don’t even know what the opportunities will be for them in terms of careers and productivity, so the idea is to give them skills to think creatively within whatever realm they find themselves in.
“I think innovation and critical thinking are two skills that all of us, children and adults, need to have to survive in the world that’s emerging for us.”
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.