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Behind the NIHF Scenes

In Conversation With Barbara Hinton, Regional Program Development Manager at the National Inventors Hall of Fame

Barbara Hinton is a former educator and regional program development manager at the National Inventors Hall of Fame® (NIHF), where she works with school districts across Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana to inspire students with a deeper understanding of problem solving, innovation and creativity through the lens of STEM. Before joining NIHF, she was the advanced academics/gifted and talented coordinator at the Allen Independent School District, located in Allen, Texas, for 20 years where she implemented Camp Invention®.

We invite you to read below to learn more about how Hinton’s experience with NIHF’s engaging, hands-on curricula inspired her to work for the organization following her retirement from education!


What was your experience with NIHF prior to joining the organization in 2019?

In 2011, I brought Camp Invention to Allen Independent School District, while serving as my district’s gifted and talented coordinator. Camp Invention was an inspiration to my gifted community of learners and parents offering a unique summer enrichment opportunity. In 2011, registration for Camp Invention was the hottest ticket in town! In fact, when registration opened, we filled a camp in less than 90 minutes and moved to open a second camp for Allen’s first summer experience. It was exciting to see the students learn in such a different setting than the traditional classroom, where the sky’s the limit and new learning was framed across meeting challenges and innovating new ideas.

After 36 years in education, I retired from teaching but believed in the power of NIHF’s education programs so strongly that I decided to join the team.


Could you share some memorable experiences from implementing Camp Invention as a teacher?

From the first year in 2011, I found that camp needed little persuasion, as my advanced learners were clamoring for a summer experience where there were no boundaries and no limits to new ideas. I remember at the end of the first day during dismissal at afternoon base camp a student asked if she could come back tomorrow, that says it all!

My most heartwarming memories come from watching elementary school campers get to high school and return to pay it forward as Leaders-in-Training. They had such wonderful experiences as children that they wanted to help new campers have the same opportunity.

That first year at camp students ascended with armloads of recyclables, to which I was amazed and wondered how all this material would be used or was this going to be a clean-up task at week’s end. To my surprise, the program offered so many ways for students to use simple materials to enhance their prototypes and bring their ideas to life. With a room filled floor to ceiling on day one, there was little left but a few scraps at the end of the week. What an amazing learning experience for students to understand the power of recyclables and the importance of reuse and recycle.


In your experience, is Camp Invention suitable for children who are reserved or introverted?

While working with gifted students, sometimes they are more reserved and often perfectionists, afraid of failure and taking risks. The same can be true for reserved and introverted students. Camp Invention meets kids where they are, allows them space to collaborate and take risks in a safe setting all while learning that failure is a part of the process. These are timeless, lifelong skills that students will carry forward throughout their educational journey.


Do you think Camp Invention has had a lasting impact on your students or fellow teachers?

One of the great things about Camp Invention is that it also takes teachers out of their comfort zone. When learning is messy, it can be really powerful. Camp Invention creates a place for this type of messy learning, and it empowers both teachers and students to tap into their natural curiosity and embrace their inner creativity.

For educators specifically, this experience encourages them to transfer the hands-on learning strategies and excitement into their traditional classroom during the school year. My colleagues would always tell me, “I know the kids that went to Camp Invention,” because they were inventors, problem solvers and always willing to build a solution.

At camp, teachers become the “guide on the side” as students leap into new challenges becoming problem seekers and solution finders. It looks different for each student, as that’s the beauty of experiential learning where there are no boundaries. NIHF provides teachers with the right stuff to inspire students to find their voice, seek their passions and embed the tools for whatever challenges lie ahead.


Is there anything else you believe educators should know about NIHF education programs?

With many challenges and tasks on educators’ plates, NIHF is committed to do some heavy lifting for you. Our team works to provide high-level STEM experiences for your students, and provide teachers with many innovative strategies to use across any content that will support, extend and enrich your curriculum. We are inspired by the dedication and passion of teachers across the country.

Let’s partner together so that we can help you inspire your students to become the next-generation problem solvers ready for whatever challenges lie ahead.


Learn More About NIHF’s Education Programs

Interested in learning how you can bring engaging STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) curricula to your district? We invite you to visit our website to learn more!

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