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Behind the NIHF Scenes

In Conversation With Susie Duchon, NIHF Program Relations Associate

Susie Duchon is a former educator and current program relations associate here at the National Inventors Hall of Fame®, where she works with our invention education experts to implement all STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) educational programs in Missouri, Kansas, Colorado and Wyoming. In addition, Duchon supports educators and districts to ensure that all students have the opportunity to participate in our programming. Prior to joining our team, she was a library media coach for Akron Public Schools (APS) and was responsible for overseeing 28 elementary school libraries and librarians. During her time at APS, she was a Camp Invention® Instructor for nine years.

Read below to learn more about Duchon’s positive experience with Camp Invention and how witnessing the program’s profound 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 first heard about Camp Invention in the summer of 2014 while working at Glover Community Learning Center. One of my co-workers was the Director of the program held that summer, and she asked me to help instruct. I have been hooked ever since!


How would you say the Camp Invention curricula have evolved over time?

I taught Camp Invention for nine years and the curricula continue to improve. So many supports have been added for the staff as well as the students, and just when you think they thought of everything, they surprise you with something new that is incredibly beneficial.

The National Inventors Hall of Fame made implementation even easier. The instructions themselves are detailed but allow the Instructor to put their own spin on it, and the graphics are appealing and eye-catching. There are videos that are engaging and really help to add that extra level of instruction. As if that isn’t enough, in recent years there has been an additional focus on incorporating social and emotional skills.


Did your fellow educators enjoy teaching the program? Do you remember any of their feedback?

I have not met an educator who did not love teaching Camp Invention. The beautiful thing about the program is that it is what teaching should be. The students are engaged, they are having fun, and most importantly, they are learning. It’s a win for every type of learner, from visual to kinesthetic.

For the educator, you witness firsthand their learning as well as their development, both socially and personally. You have so many opportunities to guide them in developing their real-world skills.


Do you feel the National Inventors Hall of Fame provided you with the tools and support necessary to succeed as a Camp Invention Instructor?

Definitely! Educators have access to the Resource Center that has videos, the curriculum, documents, flyers and many other promotional materials. In addition to all that, you have a dedicated team you can reach out to with any questions or issues you may have. And if that isn’t enough, you also have direct support from the National Inventors Hall of Fame education team.

When it comes to the materials, everything you need to teach is included — from glue to pencils! I don’t think there is anything that hasn’t been thought of. In the rare instance that you don’t have something, the National Inventors Hall of Fame will get it to you.


In your experience, did students enjoy Camp Invention? Could you share any memorable moments?

My students loved Camp Invention. I feel the main reason they loved it was that even though we, as educators, knew they were learning, they thought they were just having fun. There weren't any expectations for them to do things a certain way or to have a particular answer. We just wanted to support them in their learning and see where it took them. Some of the greatest moments were when they had failures and learned from them.

While I was teaching Camp Invention, there were so many “aha” moments. One that sticks out in my mind was from a fifth-grade boy in my first year of teaching camp. I remember he designed a cellphone wallet case. He was adamant about pitching his idea to the principal. Now, this wasn't the type of kid to get up in front of his peers, but when he pitched his idea and she said “I'll buy one,” it was like a whole new world opened for this child.

Next thing you know, he was designing all kinds of things, including a bow tie. That’s all it took, and every kid wanted to make a bow tie. I will never forget the impact that was made because of Camp Invention. He has long since graduated from high school but based on the impact Camp Invention had on him, I am sure he has already invented something.


Were there any other particularly memorable camper-made prototypes or ideas?

Just last year, I was working with the National Inventors Hall of Fame education team [to test the new 2023 Camp Invention program], and I had this student in the Catching Air module who combined his ideas with the business he designed in the Pop-Up Venture module to create a car and skateboard wash and rental business. He was only in second grade.

I called his mom to tell her how impressed I was, and she was so proud. This is the power of Camp Invention.


Did your positive experiences with Camp Invention influence your decision to work for the National Inventors Hall of Fame?

Absolutely! I have never met a more amazing group of individuals than those at the National Inventors Hall of Fame who have had such a positive effect on children. Who wouldn’t want to be surrounded by that environment each day?


What would you say to an educator who might be interested in teaching Camp Invention or bringing the program to their school?

I would let them know it is an incredible experience for them as well as their students. It’s the best gift you could give them. It's fun. It's what teaching should be. It aligns with national and state education standards, and it is a lot easier to teach than what you are being asked to do throughout the school year.

I can say all of this with confidence because I speak from experience. I know one of the hardest parts about teaching is helping to keep students engaged in what they are learning. I can promise you they will be engaged, they will love learning and they will flourish!


Is there anything else you believe educators should know about Camp Invention?

There are not enough hours in the day to talk about how impactful Camp Invention is to children — not just academically but socially, emotionally and personally.

If you can't tell, I am very passionate about Camp Invention because I have witnessed firsthand the benefits for a child who attends camp. If you still have doubts about whether you should hold camp at your school, all I can say is try it once and I guarantee you will be hooked like I was!


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