When Natasha Craft – elementary school teacher at Pulaski County School District in Pulaski County, Kentucky – first heard about Camp Invention® in the fall of 2022 during a session at the Kentucky Science Teachers Association Conference, she knew right away that it was something she wanted to bring to her school.
“I left the conference saying, ‘As long as my principal approves, we’re going to have this at our school,’” Craft said in an interview with the National Inventors Hall of Fame®. “So I went straight back and talked to my principal about it and she was all for it.”
As a first-time Camp Invention Director, Craft did not know what to expect or how many children would sign up. With a goal of growing her camp to 25 participants, to her surprise, not long after she announced her program, she had to cap its size at 90 participants.
She partially attributes her camp’s popularity to the fact that it represents the first of its kind in her community.
“We’ve had 4-H camps where children would go spend the week, but there hasn’t been an actual STEM camp as long as I can remember,” Craft said. “I think the parents really wanted it – when they heard about it, they were all jumping on board and I think we’ll have even more campers next year.”
Hands-on Learning Excitement for Instructors and Students
One of the aspects that first attracted Craft to Camp Invention is how the program uses hands-on activities to help children make connections with key STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) concepts. Throughout the academic year, she does something similar in a STEM lab that she teaches for all the students in her building.
While her camp was running, she was especially excited to see the reactions from the teachers implementing the program, who might not have the opportunity to facilitate as many project-based learning opportunities as she does.
"I had some amazing teachers,” Craft said. “They went nonstop all day and at the end, even though they were exhausted, they were still talking about how much they enjoyed it. I loved going into the classrooms and watching the interactions between the kids and the instructors. Everyone, teachers included, were dancing, building, problem solving, and being creative. Several of the teachers have told me they will definitely help with Camp Invention next summer.”
Throughout the week, Craft said that while at first some of the children were apprehensive about returning to a school environment, by the end of the week campers already were talking about signing up for next year’s program.
“Every day they got a little more excited and a little more into it,” Craft said. “They didn’t know each other when they first got there, but as the week went along, they all had new friends and it was just really exciting to watch them get excited about science.”
The Most Amazing Week
When asked what she would say to an educator potentially interested in bringing Camp Invention to their district, Craft was encouraging.
“I would say most definitely do it – it’s the most amazing week you’ll ever have!” she said. “The kids learn so much – they really just have so much fun.”
While her Camp Invention program recently ended, she already is looking forward to next year.
“I’m glad I get to be a part of the program now,” Craft said. “I can’t wait to do it again.”
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