In Conversation With Julie Snyder, National Inventors Hall of Fame Regional Program Manager
Julie Snyder is a former educator and current regional program manager at the National Inventors Hall of Fame®, where she serves as a regional program manager supporting programs in central and southeast Ohio, Connecticut and Rhode Island. Prior to joining our team, she taught at Olentangy Local Schools in Lewis Center, Ohio, as an elementary teacher. She taught grades 3, 4 and 5 for 20 years and was a Camp Invention® Director for 12 years.
Read below to learn more about Snyder’s experience with Camp Invention and how observing the program’s positive impact on students influenced her decision to work for the National Inventors Hall of Fame.
When did you first get involved with Camp Invention?
I came across a search for Camp Invention Instructors in my district and decided to teach the program during the summer of 2007. I enjoyed teaching at the camp very much, and the following year, after the local Director left our district, I decided to take over as Director of the program.
I ended up directing for 12 years and during that time built a dedicated staff. It was incredible to watch students grow from campers to Leaders-In-Training to Leadership Interns, and to see them grow and continue joining us each summer.
How would you say the Camp Invention curricula have evolved over time?
As an educator for 20 years, I was always impressed with the curricula that Camp Invention provided. From the high-quality materials and curriculum to the guides and training provided by the National Inventors Hall of Fame, each year the educators I worked with felt prepared and supported. As a Director, whenever I needed help, the National Inventors Hall of Fame was always available to answer my questions and provide guidance.
Did your fellow educators enjoy teaching the program? Do you remember any of their feedback?
Most of the Instructors I worked with continued teaching Camp Invention year after year because they enjoyed it so much. The program provided them a chance to enjoy teaching in a different way than they were able to do throughout the school year.
Often, STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects and exploration can take a back burner in the classroom due to a focus on testing and other obstacles. But Camp Invention provided a chance for Instructors and campers to take the time to explore, experiment and foster their independence and confidence.
Do you feel the National Inventors Hall of Fame provided you with the tools and support necessary to succeed as a Camp Invention Director?
During my time as a Camp Invention Director, I always felt supported and knew that my regional program manager (RPM) was always just a phone call away. At the time, I never knew just how many people the RPM supported, because they always made me feel like I was their one and only partner.
In your experience, did students enjoy Camp Invention? Could you share any memorable moments?
Students always enjoyed the camp experience! I loved seeing the kids enjoy each activity and move between modules discussing what they were going to tackle that day with their Instructor, ready to move into the next level of their inventions and goals.
I feel that the National Inventors Hall of Fame Inductee integration and access to their stories is one of the best real-world experiences that Camp Invention provides. For kids to see a diverse range of people who’ve started with just an idea or a hypothesis and turned it into something amazing is truly valuable for their confidence and growth.
Were there any particularly memorable camper-made invention prototypes or ideas?
I remember how much the students loved making their own unique “pet” in the Robotic Pet Vet™ experience. I can’t wait to see some of their 2023 Wonder stuffies from the MimicBot™ module!
Here’s an example of one I still have today:
Did your positive experiences with Camp Invention influence your decision to work for the National Inventors Hall of Fame?
Absolutely! I often said, “If I ever leave the classroom, I want to work for Camp Invention!” When the opportunity arose in 2022, it was unexpected but came at the perfect time in my life and career. I am honored to now be part of the National Inventors Hall of Fame team.
What would you say to an educator who might be interested in becoming a Camp Invention Instructor or Director, or bringing the program to their school?
Check it out! Despite the fatigue that being an educator brings, being involved in Camp Invention provides a week of fun exploration with campers, seeing kids flourish in their confidence and innovative ideas — and you get paid for it too! All around, the experience is a win-win for campers, parents and camp staff!
Is there anything else you believe educators should know about Camp Invention?
You get to keep the leftover materials for your classroom or school! My students enjoyed the materials for years to come (during indoor recess, hands-on games and more).
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