Sean Knight, science teacher at Springs School, has just made the move to teaching kindergarten through fifth grade after teaching sixth grade for the last 11 years. His philosophy when he comes to teaching is, “Kids learn by doing. When I first got into teaching, the entire curriculum was textbook based.”
The difference, he said, between textbook learning and hands on learning was made clear to him in his first year of college. “I had this science professor who separated our class into two different groups— the group I was in was tasked with building electromagnets, while the other group studied from the book. At the end of the class, we all had a pop quiz on the subject matter. Not only did the students building the electromagnets score higher, they learned more.”
It’s this same logic that Knight now shares with the summer camp he has been heading all week at Springs School— Camp Invention.
Camp Invention, introduced in 1990, prides itself on “[immersing and engaging] its participants through hands-on activities in science, technology, engineering and math.” Nationwide, the camp serves over 80,000 students in 1,200 schools.
This past week during its first year at Springs School, only 46 kids have been in attendance, but Knight says just having the program in place has been a wonderful change of pace.
“This winter I had one mother complaining that there are only sport’s camps available for kids in the summer,” He said, “not only are we able to teach science in a fun way, but because we’re using the school space instead of renting a new one, we’re able to admit campers for as little as $50 a day.”
Campers from first grade through fourth tackled a wide variety of challenges— each with its own back story and creative element. One group is determining how to make their model “sludge cities” more eco-friendly, another group is developing rubber duck launchers and another group is coming up with balloon powered “space craft” to get them home from the Planet Zak, where they’ve been trapped all week after a crash landing.
“The goal,” Knight says, “is to be as hands off as possible to allow kids to figure it out for themselves through trial and error. We’re also teaching kids the power of failure, and the way in which you can learn more from an idea that doesn’t work than one that does.”
“It’s great,” said Andrea Van Dyke, one of the camp’s instructors, “The campers are having a lot of fun and all of the projects are really centered around team building and experimentation.”
“Also, “ she said, “we’re using all recyclable materials in our projects.”
All of the recyclables were provided by camper’s parents.
“We want to do this every year, if possible,” Knight said. In his mind, the program isn’t just about providing the children with fun, but better preparing them for challenges they’ll face in the future. “The kids going back to school they’ll have a lot more experience with better problem solving and communication,” he said, “In the end, we’d really hope to get all the kids to high school with as many similar skill sets as possible.”
For more information about Camp Invention visit the website at http://www.campinvention.org/