CANTON Some of the 82 elementary pupils were escaping a swamp on Planet Zak. Others were saving Sludge City from pollution, engineering a roller coaster or building a ball-rolling machine.
All were participants in Camp Invention, hosted for the first time in the north country by SUNY Canton this summer. The day camp, which is offered through the national Invent Now program, provided hands-on lessons in science, math, engineering and technology for children entering first through sixth grade.
I think there was a desire in the community for this kind of program. Its serving a lot of the north country, said April Barnes, a teacher at Potsdam High School and the director of the camp.
Now the children arent going to be afraid of the concepts, the terminology. Thats what its all about: exploring, creating, configuring, being able to feel safe to create and to risk a choice, she said.
The five-day camp, which concluded Friday with a presentation for parents, was structured around four themed modules through which the children rotated every day. Pupils from more than a dozen school districts attended the camp at SUNY Cantons Richard W. Miller Campus Center.
The children were encouraged to work in teams and find innovative solutions to a variety of challenges, such as filtering sediment out of a puddle or keeping a marble rolling through a series of tubes. With the help of four instructors and four camp counselors, the children also learned about such concepts as gravity, inertia, pollution and recycling.
Its been a great experience for the kids, said Danielle M. Folino, an academic intervention services coordinator at Morristown High School and an instructor for the camp. This is what the kids need to stay engaged.
Camp Invention was brought to the north country this year by Ronald J. Tavernier Jr., an assistant professor of biology at SUNY Canton, and Mary E. Graham, a professor of human resource management at Clarkson University in Potsdam, both of whom saw a need for an educational summer program for elementary pupils. They said they plan to expand the camps offerings next summer.
Despite the educational focus of the camp, the children were having a blast as they worked on their projects one afternoon.
Weve learned how lakes get polluted, said Naomi R. Crowell, 7, of Canton. Right now, were going to rebuild a city because Sludge City wants an eco-friendly city.
We took apart machines, a movie player and a keyboard, and weve done science experiments, said Elyse M. Tavernier, 7, also of Canton. Its just lots of fun.