With summer approaching, everyone here at the National Inventors Hall of Fame® (NIHF) is excited to offer our most flexible and accessible Camp Invention® program yet. Our flagship summer STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) program has reached millions of children in grades K-6 over the past 30 years, and now that we’ve made it possible to enjoy our action-packed, hands-on camp experience at home, we’re ready to reach even more.
Each year, the NIHF education team develops and tests an all-new Camp Invention program, and just one of the ways we’ve put our 2021 Recharge program to the test has been to ask parents to try it out with their children in an at-home, child-led format. Pamelajanay, mom to camper Brody, age 5; Rachel, mom to campers Lincoln, age 10, and Lydia, age 8; and Carrie, mom to camper Penelope, age 8, provided their thoughts on our at-home program, which we’ve summarized below.
Getting Creative With the Innovator’s Toolkit
We shipped each family an Innovator’s Toolkit, packed will all the materials campers need. This same kit will be shipped to every camper who signs up to join our program from home this summer.
As each family unboxed the kit, they found a complete materials list, themed activity bags, an Innovator Workshop and more. Pamelajanay said of her son, “I saw him light up as soon as he saw all the materials.”
Unboxing his Innovator’s Toolkit, camper Brody gets ready to innovate.
“The materials were extremely easy to find,” said Rachel. “The color-coded activity bags were absolutely amazing. They were so helpful, keeping everything organized.”
The Innovator Workshop, including a Maker Mat, Pegboard and Toolbelt, made it easy for each family to create a special space for their campers to build and experiment with all their materials.
Carrie explained that for her child, these materials helped set the stage for creativity and will continue to be useful. “The Innovator Workshop really added to my daughter’s experience. We have been keeping everything out in a corner of the living room, so she is free to spread out the Maker Mat and dig into the materials whenever the mood strikes — and it strikes often.”
Giving Children the Freedom to Lead
Not only does Camp Invention offer the flexibility to choose between in-person and at-home experiences, but our at-home format also allows children to take on each day in the ways that work best for their interests, strengths and learning styles.
Pamelajanay, Rachel and Carrie found that by approaching the program as a fun family activity and letting their children lead, their campers were empowered and inspired.
Carrie shared that her daughter has had some difficulty in school with transitioning from one activity to the next, but the at-home Camp Invention program offered her an encouraging experience. “My daughter always does best when she has some agency in what she’s doing, and when she doesn’t feel rushed,” Carrie explained. “Doing camp at home and approaching everything in a child-led way removes those transition issues entirely, letting her work at her own pace and maintain her good mood.”
Camper Penelope puts her modified launching device to the test.
Both Pamelajanay and Rachel agreed, saying the program offered their children the opportunity to make their own choices and avoid the familiar challenges of transitioning between activities. Rachel added that the program gave her children the chance to work together as a team. “As siblings, these activities definitely helped them get along and brainstorm together, and that is invaluable to me as a parent.”
Innovating, Persisting and Having Fun
Every NIHF education program is designed to help children develop the Innovation Mindset, a growth mindset that instills lessons from world-changing inventors, which will benefit them throughout their lives. Each family that tried this year’s Camp Invention program in their homes reported that they could see this mindset taking shape as their children engaged in the hands-on challenges.
Pamelajanay appreciated watching her son’s confidence grow. “I only helped when there were some tiny parts to put together. But the majority of the time, Brody would say, ‘I’ve got this,’ and he would become proud of his invention.”
Each parent also emphasized that the program helped their children build persistence as they explored STEM and innovation.
Rachel shared, “Lincoln became frustrated that his [Road Rally] car kept falling apart each time it crashed, so it was an opportunity for me to ask him what he could use to reinforce the parts and build protection around the car. I swear I could see the light bulb turn on behind his eyes! It was amazing to watch his attitude do an immediate shift like that.”
Camper Lincoln uses his wireless microphone to share his next big idea.
One of the most exciting items children receive in this year’s Camp Invention program is a wireless microphone, and they can take it apart to find out how it works. For Carrie’s daughter, this activity offered a valuable challenge. “Penelope was so proud to have gotten all the tiny screws out on her own with the screwdriver — despite her fine motor delays! — and she did not get frustrated when she needed a little help with other parts of the microphone,” Carrie said. “She stayed engaged and had so much fun.”
Learn More About Camp Invention
To bring the fun, learning and inspiration of Camp Invention home for your family this summer, we invite you to learn more and sign your child up on our website.