Bristow Run Elementary Camp Invention Gets Creative with STEM

| July 26, 2012 | 0 Comments | Education
Miranda Cobb, Leadership Intern, helps Bethany Bradshaw (left) of BRE, while McKenzie Manning of Bull Run Middle takes apart her electronic device.

On Tuesday, July 24 a class of approximately 15 rising fifth- and sixth-graders are tinkering with electronics at Bristow Run Elementary School. They work intently hunched over their devices, breaking apart DVD players and clock radios, looking for simple machines and moveable parts, which they can use to build their own inventions.

Such was the idea behind the national program, Camp Invention ®. It is a week long, educational day camp for elementary students that emphases investigative work in science and technology.

“They are really learning, and they don’t realize they are learning,” said camp director Andrea Ragonese, who is excited her campers are taking apart machines and learning how they work.

“My father and grandfather used to do that with me. I’ve been doing that forever, and that’s why I wanted to be an engineer,” Ragonese said.

Working as a patent agent, Ragonese had heard of Camp Invention and hoped the nonprofit company had a camp nearby where she could enroll her children.

Benjamin Jacobs of Victory Elementary and Rishman Ratnakar of Pennington both hope to become scientists on day.

Upon finding the closest camp was in Vienna, Ragonese decided to direct her own Camp Invention. Naturally, she chose her neighborhood school, where her three children are enrolled, to serve as the location.

Having only applied for a camp in March, Ragonese was elated to find her camp surpassed the required 30 students to fill 50 seats its opening season. And while she only advertised at Bristow Run, she reach a variety of students from schools throughout the region.

The camp seemed to be in the right place in the right time as schools are encouraging a bigger emphasis on STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) education.

According to the Camp Invention model, the children are divided by age groups into one of the three programs. Rising first and second graders attend a program called Problem Solving on Planet ZAK ®. Over the course of five days they work finding shelter from the elements and finally making their escape.

On Tuesday, campers marooned on Planet ZAK were busily fashioning makeshift ponchos out of garbage bags and loose material, and erecting shelters out of a nesting desks.

Helen Jacobs is helped by her Leadership Intern who helps fasten her spacesuit.

Meanwhile, in Saving Sludge City- TM, children in grades three and four filtered water coloring from their city’s supply of “sludge” water. They designed their own filtration devices, using everyday items that parents donated to the camp.

Back in class, the older kids shared stories of how their parents fostered their interest in science and technology.

Ella Briggs, a rising fourth grade student at T. Clay Wood, said she is interested in how things work, since her father, who works with computers, sometimes let her smash old models and hard drives and look at the parts inside.

Benjamin Jacobs and Rishman Ratnakar have worked with technology before creating NXT Robotics 2.0 using LEGOs. Ratnakar said he wants to be a NASA scientist when he grows up, while Jacobs wants to be an inventor.

On Planet ZAK students said they liked the fun games they played at camp, not realizing the educational philosophy behind those games. The camp curriculum is clever like that, disguising problem solving and creative thinking activities as play.

Edward Wisniewski of All Saints School digs deep into the guts of his machine.

The camp is also unique in that it requires certified teachers, so as to create an encouraging and professional learning environment.

Principal Kim Werle of Bristow Run Elementary has been supportive of the camp, which she believes will greatly benefit her students.

“From what I’ve seen, it lets the students have the flexibility to use their creativity and to think outside the box. Whenever you can do that, it is a very good thing,” Werle said.

Ragonese said she could not have done it without her teachers, counselors, parent volunteers and leadership interns. She hopes to double the number of participants next year, and possibly help bring more Camp Inventions to neighboring schools.

© 2012, Bristow Beat. All rights reserved.

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