In Conversation With Katie Kirkpatrick, NIHF Curriculum Writer
Katie Kirkpatrick, a former PreK-3 teacher and Camp Invention® Instructor, recently joined the National Inventors Hall of Fame® team as a curriculum writer, and she attributes her desire to work for the organization to her positive experiences at camp.
Want to get a behind-the-scenes look at how our curricula are developed and see why teachers across the country have trusted our programs for over 30 years?
Learn about Kirkpatrick's Instructor experience with Camp Invention, and why she chose to work on its curricula as her new career!
How did you first hear about Camp Invention, and what sparked your interest in getting involved?
When I was in middle school, my little brother attended Camp Invention, and I remember collecting all these recyclables for him to take to camp. I was fascinated and always wondered what he was going to do with all that stuff.
Many years later, when I started teaching kindergarten, I had actually forgotten about Camp Invention until my mentor teacher told me that our school offered it in the summer and that I should try to teach it. However, it would take another three years before I had the chance to do that because so many educators wanted to teach it!
When you were finally able to teach Camp Invention, what was that experience like?
When I became an Instructor, I remember having a lightbulb moment where I thought, ‘This is how school should look and what teaching should look like.’ The experience really reaffirmed my belief in the importance of student choice and allowing children to explore their environment. Following that first experience, I wanted to teach it every summer after that.
Could you share any memorable experiences from teaching Camp Invention?
The excitement that the students had was something that really sticks out in my mind – there was just this happy energetic buzz in the room. Many of the kids I taught during that first year of Camp Invention are now Leaders-in-Training and Leadership Interns. It’s really great because they are in middle and high school now, and they still want to participate in Camp Invention.
Another thing that sticks out is that at Camp Invention, some of the more shy and quiet kids were able to really blossom. By building and creating, their confidence grew, and by the end of the week they were ready to share their invention creations with their peers and make new friends.
Do you recall any camper-made invention prototypes that impressed you?
There’s been a lot! I remember this one camper a couple of years ago made a device that went through the ocean, picked up any trash and filtered the water out so that it was clean for the fish and animals living in the ocean, which was really neat. I also remember that there was a group of girls who collaborated and built a wheelchair hoverboard.
Of course, a popular invention each year were devices that would automatically do chores that the kids didn’t want to do – cleaning rooms, doing dishes. Overall, it’s great to empower the students and to let them know that their ideas have value, which is a huge part of Camp Invention.
Did your fellow educators enjoy teaching Camp Invention?
For the last couple of years, prior to working at the National Inventors Hall of Fame, I had been teaching Camp Invention with the same teachers because they loved the program so much. The program has a lot of bonuses for teachers too – one of the major ones being that the curriculum is already made for you, and it’s both high quality and easy to implement.
Another bonus is that all the materials needed to run camp are provided to the teachers, so they don’t have to go out and spend their own money to get materials. Of course, the stipend is also really nice.
Did your positive experience with Camp Invention influence your decision to join NIHF?
It definitely did! I don’t exactly remember what took me to the National Inventors Hall of Fame careers page, but when I saw they were hiring a curriculum writer, I was so excited and couldn’t believe it. I thought about how amazing it would be to write curricula I know students love and be able to positively impact so many more students than I would be able to as a teacher. I still can’t believe I’m here – it’s amazing.
What would you like educators to know about NIHF’s curriculum development process?
One of the biggest things I hadn’t realized, but it makes sense being on the other side, is that the curriculum is so student centered and it’s incredibly well tested and vetted with students. Our education team does so much research and testing and piloting, that by the end of its development phase, it truly is a camp for kids. It’s important to know that all our programming is made in collaboration with students and educators, and takes their input into consideration.
Visit our website to find out how you can bring National Inventors Hall of Fame programs to your own district. If you’ve had your own positive experience with Camp Invention, we invite you to share your experience with us on our Facebook page.