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A Camp Devoted to Imagination in Massapequa

One hundred young inventors and innovators from the Massapequa School District spent a week of their summer vacation stimulating their minds. Camp Invention, a nationwide STEM program for elementary-age students, was held from Aug. 9-13 at Unqua Elementary School.

The camp has been in the district for more than 15 years and after a one-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was back this summer filled with hands-on science and engineering activities that promoted critical thinking, problem-solving and teamwork.

Children showed up with their imaginations as they rotated through different centers each day to learn about a multitude of scientific concepts. In Solar Bot, students made solar-powered crickets, then created different projects for those crickets. Using recycled materials, they made bridges, catapults and other contraptions to get their creatures safely across a small pond. Duck Chuck included a challenge to launch rubber ducks around the world, an activity that also taught participants about geography and international landmarks.

Students constructed vehicles using pulleys, propellors and hydraulics in Road Rally, while learning about energy in the process. At the end of the week, children raced their vehicles. There was the study of sound waves in Open Mic, in which they took apart a microphone to see all the different components. In Pip’s Adventure, students explored simple machines to transport a fictional lizard named Pip. As they made parachutes, the young scientists enhanced their knowledge of aerodynamics.

Camp Invention Games included team-building challenges. Students worked together to keep a beach ball in the air using a tarp and invented devices to drop a water balloon without it breaking. All workshops were led by certified teachers with support from high school counselors.

“It’s fun to see the kids who really like science, and are excited to learn about inventions and innovation,” said Massapequa High School senior Damien L., who attended Camp Invention as a child before becoming a counselor. “It’s fun to share this experience and make it better for them.”

Damien, who worked with fourth and fifth graders this year, would bring them to the different centers, help them with their projects and, most importantly, make sure they were safe and happy.

Gianna B., a student from Lockhart Elementary School, said this was her fourth time attending Camp Invention and enjoys taking home the projects she builds to show her family. She looks forward to it every year.

“I really enjoy learning about science and math,” she said. “It’s fun for me and I just find it interesting.”

East Lake Elementary School student Matthew T. said instead of spending the week at home, he prefers to use his time more productively at Camp Invention, where he can build and explore. He particularly enjoys the activities in which he can use the recycled materials to create something new.

“I like working with stuff and making it more useful,” he said.

Camp Invention Director Betty Ann Natke said she loves to see the different ways that students interpret the challenges. They may all have the same goal, she explained, but accomplish it in so many different ways.

“I really love the freedom that they have,” Ms. Natke said. “The kids have to imagine and create. They don’t have a lot of constraints in terms of what they come up with. Their solutions are celebrated and every kid can be successful here.”