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Innovation Shines at Massapequa’s Camp Invention

Nearly 200 children found themselves wondering about the world around them, as they attended Camp Invention at Unqua Elementary School from Aug. 7 to 11. The summer STEM camp was hosted by the Massapequa School District in partnership with the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

This year’s theme was “Wonder,” and the campers entering grades K-6 were immersed in hands-on activities to improve their understanding of science, technology, engineering and math. Supporting them were certified teachers, as well as middle school and high school student leaders.

Students visited five stations each day, where activities built upon knowledge from the previous day. In Invention Celebration, they became event planners and were tasked with creating a party. They made party hats with a purpose, photo props and musical instruments. Their thumb pianos had personalized designs and they could change its sound by adding objects such as bells, combs, rubber bands and sandpaper.

Pop-Up Venture gave students insight into the entrepreneurship. Each child had to come up with an idea for a pop-up business, and popular ideas were carnivals and lemonade stands. They developed a business plan, applied for licenses and permits, and were given a budget to buy items for their businesses. Each student made a prototype for an environmentally-conscious design.

In Catching Air, students built a model of a skate park. The project helped them explore different physical concepts such as force and friction. Students made their own copy-cat robots in Mimic Bot, transforming look-alike Stuffie robots into unique creations with mimicking capabilities. They also discovered how animals in nature use adaptation tactics for protection. Camp Invention Games featured numerous team-building activities.

Many of the supplies were provided by families and stored in the Upcycle room. At the beginning of Camp Invention, parents were asked to bring in recycled materials, such as cardboard boxes, paper towel rolls and plastic bottles, which were sorted and organized by the leader interns and leaders-in-training. Students could visit the Upcycle room to find supplies for their inventions.

Camp Invention Director Heather Kulok said that the program focused on authentic learning, as students gained first-hand knowledge by building and creating. She added that they were very excited to arrive each day and see what projects were planned.

“When the children would leave here, they were so excited about the next day and what they were going to explore and build,” she said. “There was a lot of teamwork, collaboration and sharing of ideas.”

Ms. Kulok’s staff included leader interns, who are high school students and recent graduates, and leaders-in-training, who are in grades 7-9. Many of the staff members and volunteers attended Camp Invention when they were in elementary school.

Rosalie Avalos, a rising senior, worked her third summer at the camp and was assigned to a group of first and second graders. She enjoyed helping the campers use their imaginations and turn their ideas into tangible inventions.

Recent Massapequa graduate Christina Fradella was on staff for the third summer and also was a camper for two years when she was younger. This year, she worked with second and third graders.

“I like to see that they’re having fun,” Christina said. “For me, this is where I started liking science and I hope it’s the same for them.”