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How NIHF Develops a New Camp Invention Curriculum Each Year

Part of what makes Camp Invention®, the flagship summer STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) program from the National Inventors Hall of Fame® (NIHF), so innovative is that each year brings with it an entirely new curriculum. This does not happen by accident, and to ensure our students across the country continue receiving the highest quality experience, NIHF’s education team undertakes an ambitious development schedule.

Our 20-month curriculum development process begins with interviewing our NIHF Inductees for inspiring stories. Next, we attend national conferences like CES and the Toy Fair in order to keep up to date with the latest educational toys and trends in STEM education. With this knowledge, we interview teachers and children across the country to discover what ideas most resonate with them. During the summer months, we apply what we’ve learned and pilot our curriculum in a process we call Vanguard. Over the course of 10 weeks, we test our curriculum at schools nationwide and gain insights to evolve and strengthen our program.

What follows is a list of questions we ask ourselves during this crucial period to guide the evolution of Camp Invention:

  • Does this experience empower children to be more creative?
  • How can we produce custom materials that will both hold up well with multiple uses over the week and encourage children to problem solve?
  • How can we provide teachers with the right background information to give them the confidence to facilitate each activity?
  • How might we make our modules accessible for our youngest participants while differentiating them to be challenging and engaging for our oldest? What modifications might make this activity more accommodating and support neurodiversity?
  • Are all children able to identify with the NIHF Inductees who introduce new STEM themes and pose challenges to our campers throughout the week? Is there a diverse array of inventors presented?
  • Are children given an adequate amount of agency? In what direction do the children naturally want to take the activity, and is there enough time allotted for them to succeed? 
  • Are we positively changing the mindset of children? Are the children having fun and engaging in meaningful, intentional activities that build STEM and 21st-century skills?
  • How can we ensure that we provide the ideal amount of support, while simultaneously creating an environment that promotes hands-on exploration and discovery?
  • What support can we provide to make it easy and fun for our instructors?

While developing curricula for all our education programs, NIHF’s education team strives to create experiences that encourage children to take risks, wade through ambiguity, work as part of a team and refine their problem-solving strategies.

Data from our independent evaluations and program surveys, cutting-edge research in both formal and informal education, and feedback from children, parents and teachers all heavily inform how Camp Invention evolves from year to year. These factors, paired with insights gained from our Collegiate Inventors Competition® Finalists and NIHF Inductees, ensure that Camp Invention will continue to provide the best STEM summer camp experience for years to come!

To find out more about Camp Invention, as well as NIHF’s entire Innovation Ecosystem of programs designed for a lifetime of STEM learning, we invite you to visit our website.

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