Jim Burgess, retired principal of Pennsylvania’s Carlisle Area School District, believes in the importance of providing innovative STEM education to as many students as possible.
As an advocate of the National Inventors Hall of Fame® (NIHF) and our Camp Invention® program, Burgess has helped raise an amazing $13,685 in scholarships for students in his district since 2016.
“Camp Invention is a perfect fit for someone who is curious and wonders why,” Burgess said in an interview with NIHF. “Camp also provides opportunities for ‘Give Me a Chance Kids’ to experience a whole new world of discovery, teamwork and project-based learning where the teachers are facilitators.”
The term “Give Me a Chance Kids” came to Burgess while helping out on the board of another nonprofit summer camp in Carlisle as a more inclusive alternative to the “children at risk” categorization.
“What we’re trying to do here is give kids a chance, an opportunity to do something that they typically wouldn’t have because of the price point of the opportunity,” Burgess said.
Adelaide’s Chance at an Innovative STEM Education
When she was in fourth grade, Adelaide, an elementary school student in the Carlisle Area School District, loved creating art but was not fond of science. Because of this, when her mother approached her about attending Camp Invention, she was hesitant.
However, she decided to give camp a chance and loved her experience. Thanks to the efforts of Burgess and the generous support of her community, Adelaide was able to attend that first year of camp, and the following two summers, on a fully paid scholarship at no cost to her family.
Camp Invention’s interactive curriculum helped Adelaide realize that she could combine her love of art and design with other STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), and now she has dreams of pursuing a career in STEM.
Partnering with the American Association of University Women
In 2015, Burgess had the opportunity to connect with a member of the American Association of University Women (AAUW). Since then, the organization has provided scholarships for girls in the Carlisle area to attend Camp Invention.
Recently, Adelaide was asked by the organization to speak about her experience at Camp Invention. For 30 minutes, she spoke about how her love of art could be combined with her newfound love of STEM. Those in attendance were thoroughly impressed by her poise and public speaking ability for someone of such a young age. This opportunity has allowed Adelaide to network with members of the AAUW and could potentially lead to other exciting opportunities for her in the future.
“Her talk with AAUW opened up a whole other arena of opportunities for her,” Burgess said. “She was able to speak confidently about what she learned, and this could lead to Adelaide becoming an institutional phenomenon.”
The Importance of Giving Back
His connections with educators from around his district have also proved invaluable.
“As a formal principal, I use those connections and those skills to really try to make the job of Camp Director pretty smooth,” Burgess said. “I do that stuff because when I started this in 2012, I was at the end of my career and I wanted to keep it going.”
For those interested in helping or developing a Camp Invention program in their own school districts, Burgess recommends reaching out to retired educators within their communities for support.
“I suggest tapping into retired educators who are active in the community — they have the skills and connections.”
Thank You to All of Our Amazing Supporters and Volunteers
Thanks to our many talented supporters and volunteers, NIHF was able to reach 165,000 students through our education programs in 2018. For those interested in helping to develop the next generation of innovators, we invite you to visit our website.